Friday, May 28, 2010

Voices I (hope to always) Recall

I'm going to miss my International Baccalaureate class dearly. They are graduating seniors and are off to college next year. This week ends our two year journey together, and I am incredibly humbled by their gratitude and appreciation. I love them. A lot.

As a concluding assignment, I asked my kids to write "This I Believe" essays (in the same form as NPR's 1950's program) - Christine's brilliant (as usual) idea. All of the essays are special - inspirational and personal - because they define what's important to the kids right here, right now. One of my kids, Lauren, wrote a particularly insightful essay about the importance of internationalism, especially regarding education. Her words are poignant and universal. Please enjoy this incredible wisdom from an 18 year old kid:

When I started high school, I was basically a loser. I wanted to get in and out as soon as possible, putting in the minimum effort. I didn't think I had much to learn. I could read and write and I knew what I thought about, well, everything. I knew what was right and what was wrong and what needed to change in the world. I still have a moral code. I know what needs to change. But everything else is different.

I started in International Baccalaureate (IB) flat-out disagreeing with a lot of people in it. With their ideologies, political views, study habits even. I also started out wanting to get my diploma basically to prove that I could. I still thought I knew everything, and after two years of the same ole, I figured I needed to do something challenging before I died of apathy.

And now? I still disagree with a lot of people about a lot of things, but my beliefs - and how I view theirs - have altered drastically.

This I believe - if we are to achieve world peace, we must first seek world education. Universal teaching, not necessarily of the same curriculum, but of the same ideal: that people must learn how to think. They must learn to think for themselves, and they must learn to question those thoughts. Every culture in the world gives their children a different beginning. Every country, every village, every family. Each child begins with a foundation, but to question it, examine it.. And to be willing to change it.. How we know what we know?- Theory of Knowledge (TOK) asks. And that's the most important question anyone will ever be posed.

I don't care if every kid learns Mandarin because that's not really the universal language, is it? There will always be translators of words. The hardest thing is to translate thoughts. Beliefs. How do other people think? Where are they coming from? Where are they standing? A lot of wars have been fought over that kind of translation.

I started out headstrong, and I ended up in love with diversity. I'm pretty much a firm believer in learning through experience. I feel like if every student spent two years in class next to a girl as lovely and compassionate as my friend, Yassmin, there would be fewer idiots in the hallways telling jokes at her expense. I believe that if one in a hundred classes could include the incredible variety of human thought that each and every one of ours does - this is what we do where I'm from; this is what my religion says; this is how we think differently, and the same - there would be a lot fewer hate crimes and stupid remarks and just horrible ignorance in general. There are kids in this country, state, and city who barely even see people of a different ethnicity on a daily basis. How on earth are we supposed to be a global community if we don't even get what our neighbors are saying?

I really didn't care when I began this programme. And then it started to sink in: what IB means, and through that, what education means. And I started to care. I know other apathetic students could, too. I believe that if everyone had to go through this - essentially write a college-level thesis in high school, have discussions in every class, research and study with every resource available like their lives depended on it - they would love learning, or at least take a little pride in their educations. I believe that no one would ever fault their child for wanting a college degree, or two, or four, nor would they confuse academia with elitism.

So, yes, I believe in IB. Me, my classmates, my teachers - we could really change the world because whether we realize it or not, we know what to do. I believe in education and yes, even TOK. I believe in myself, and I believe in all of the future CEO's and presidents, and diplomats I share math class with.

This I believe.


This post was inspired by the Loose Bloggers Consortium, a small and feisty(!) global community. We write weekly on a common topic (Voices I Recall, this week) and post responses - all of us together, simultaneously, from all over the world. (Lovely!) Please visit Anu, Ashok, Conrad, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Judy, Magpie 11, Maria and Ramana for other wonderful posts.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Friday, May 21, 2010

Lost

"Do you want to stand in the shade, Pale One?" I asked as we waited. I waved Christine out of the sun and motioned towards my sliver of shade.

"Naw, I'm good," she said, looking at her arms. "Probably this is good for me."

The plain white sign on the door read, "Gone for oysters - Be back in an hour," and was signed by someone of importance, I assumed, though the scribble was fairly illegible. In any case, I didn't have the patience to read the scribble on sign that basically assumed I would have the fortitude to endure the humid Texas heat, the sun blaring down its stifling inferno, for an hour. Plus we had gone and come back an hour ago, more or less, and were no longer amused by the idea of oyster eaters at a tattoo parlor.

There were six of us standing there, sizing each other up. By far, Christine and I were the oldest ones there and probably the only ones with steady salaries and retirement plans. "Kids," I thought. "I wonder if they're old enough to be here?" That's when they struck up a brief conversation:

"Are you here to get a tattoo?" a girl began as she squinted up at me. I wasn't sure what she meant by the question which in my head sounded awfully like, "Are you here to get a tattoo? You seem pretty old. Maybe you're here to sell someone a time share in Florida, the land of retirees. The dry cleaners next door has old people in it. Try there." I forced my lips into a smile.

"Um. Well yeah. I mean I'm adding to one I already have.. So.. is this place worth the wait?"

"Yeah," a boy said, "Absolutely."

The girl continued, "I got my first one here, and see? Look at the work they do. It's amazing." I glanced at the tattoo on the girl's arm and nodded. "I got mine done by Ian," she squealed.

"And Crush did mine," the boy said.

"My first one was done by Crush, but I think Bones is the best," said another one. They all nodded in agreement. "Who do you want to do yours?"

As I looked at the faces of the kids in front of me, I wondered what the hell I was doing there.
"I don't know," I sighed.

I reasoned that I was the only one rational enough to know what I wanted - truly - in a respectable, mature sense. I have lived long enough to understand that body art is forever, and that when parts of my body start to sag, the art will sag too. That's why I had chosen to adorn a strategically firm location. I had even remembered to wear a pretty bra knowing that I would have to pull my shirt off, and I had planned some witty repartee regarding my pregnancy stretch marks. That's what mature people do, isn't it? We rationalize, convince ourselves of something, overcompensate for our flaws, and make excuses.. Right?

Who was I kidding?

I had decided that the kids in front of me were the immature ones when they were more comfortable in their skin than I will ever be. They were ok with waiting for how ever long it took because time didn't really matter to them. They weren't treating me like a lost grown-up aimlessly roaming on their turf. I had projected that. They were not looking down their noses at me. I was at them.

I was done waiting at that realization. I turned around and walked to the car, overcompensating for my embarrassment, my excuse being that waiting for wayward oyster eaters was stupid.

This post was inspired by the Loose Bloggers Consortium, a small and feisty(!) global community. We write weekly on a common topic (Lost, this week) and post responses - all of us together, simultaneously, from all over the world. (Lovely!) Please visit Anu, Ashok, Conrad, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Judy, Magpie 11, Maria and Ramana for other wonderful posts.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Modern Myths: The American Dream

One of my favorite modern myths is the idea that everyone can (and should aim to) attain "The American Dream." Simply defined, the American Dream is the notion that if one works hard enough, no matter his beginnings, he can someday own a suburban home, a white picket fence emphasizing the manicured, weedless lawn. He can wear comfy slippers on Sunday mornings while reading the funnys, smoking a pipe (or vehemently not, depending on the decade), and watching the little ones frolic to and fro. The missus - the love of his life who is 40% homemaker and 60% sexy - is in the kitchen whipping up pancakes and bacon, stopping occasionally to kiss him on the forehead or to remind him about their social commitments - the bunko game at the Smith's or something. Of course there would be work the next morning at a job that would warrant a decent amount of complaining, but only enough to appear confident, productively opinionated, and/or wise so that the next rung on the ladder to a management position might be easily surmounted.

This 1950's, post World War ideal is both antiquated and far fetched. It never really existed in the first place, not to mention the fact that the image was only represented by a single prototype: male and white. Those who have attained what they deem the American Dream tend to snidely look down their noses at people who haven't, yet. They ask brutal questions like, "Why should our tax dollars pay for those who are too lazy to work?" or "Why should we have to take care of immigrants who take our jobs and our land? Tell them to go back to their own countries."

These folks did not take into account variations in pre-American Dream status such as:

Education - This is not only a question of did one go to school and for how long, but in what environment (safe, welcoming, encouraging, intellectual), with what resources (school supplies, lab equipment, healthy lunches), and with what community support (family - mom and dad, especially - and friends)?

Resources - Having money within the existing family initially gives one an automatic leg up. It also allows for more cultural/educational experiences, hobnobbing with important connections, and time (as in you may not have to have an after school job to eat, so you get to spend time having cultural experiences and hobnobbing).

Opportunity - tied to education, culture, friends, and resources

Culture - Is English one's first language? If not, strike one. It certainly makes education more difficult, not to mention finding a job and/or hobnobbing.

Sex - Men still have the advantage.

Luck - plain and simple

These variations, among hundreds of others make the myth that The American Dream is attainable for everyone completely ridiculous. More ludicrous is the idea that some deserve it more than others as a God-given reward for being righteous (of the Christian variety, of course), a very popular belief here in the South. Also, this dream promotes individuality, a trait that, in my opinion, is contrary to human nature.

It is exceedingly rare for folks to break away from the familiar lifestyles and into the upper echelon of the dream. That said, in the same breath I have to also mention that we have it a lot better here than in most places in the world. Our poverty level, though devastating, compared to other countries is minor. Our poor can find food. That, perhaps, is the legitimate American Dream.

Whenever I feel confronted by the elitists who still find ways to demean the downtrodden, I remember Martin Luther King Jr.'s comment (and I'm paraphrasing) that it is completely unfair to ask a man to pull himself up by his bootstraps when he has no boots. King also related that the suburbs are a bane to society, anyway, simply because people can climb into their cars and drive away from the burden of poverty. I think of Lot's wife - the one who has no name and who, therefore, represents any person, who was too caught up in the luxuries of Gomorrah to leave without looking back. She turned into a pillar of salt.

So here we sit - waiting for and working towards attaining some mythical, material American dream. I'm not saying that it's poor form to have money or to want to climb ladders. I am saying that humility is necessary in the ascent, as is helping others without condemnation. Community is essential.

This post was inspired by the Loose Bloggers Consortium, a small and feisty(!) global community. We write weekly on a common topic (Modern Myths, this week) and post responses - all of us together, simultaneously, from all over the world. (Lovely!) Please visit Anu, Ashok, Conrad, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Judy, Magpie 11, Maria and Ramana for other wonderful posts.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lobsta

I had an amazing time in Cape Cod with Fougs's family! Here's a home video of how to eat "Lob-sta'.

video

Thanks for a fantastic time, Mum and Dad B. !!!! (And of course, Christine, my gratitude for the trip and for your friendship is boundless..

(For more Cape Codder adventure pics, click here.)

Friday, May 7, 2010

I just hate it when..

..my agenda is so full (of good lovely happenings and chores) that I have to reduce my life to bullet points:

*Magazine publishing in the works
*International baccalaureate testers testing
*Senior failure list changes
*Seniors whining about being on the senior failure list
*Seniors begging for redoes on all assignments
*Caving in and allowing them to redo whatever
*Grading redoes
*Magazine release party planning in the works
*Cap and Gown disbursement
*The actual planning and teaching part of my job
*Quick, spontaneous week end vacay (:)) Hooray!
*More grading
*Senior Events: farewell celebrations, projects, exams, prom, graduation practice, graduation (they've voted me to read names.. yay..(sigh))
*Multiple family visits: in-laws, step in-laws, brothers, mothers, and dads, all on different dates (the beauty of being in a blended (butchered?) family)

And then summer where (hopefully) I can work on the writing project I want to do.

But maybe being busy to the point of exhaustion is a good thing?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Voices I (hope to always) Recall

I'm going to miss my International Baccalaureate class dearly. They are graduating seniors and are off to college next year. This week ends our two year journey together, and I am incredibly humbled by their gratitude and appreciation. I love them. A lot.

As a concluding assignment, I asked my kids to write "This I Believe" essays (in the same form as NPR's 1950's program) - Christine's brilliant (as usual) idea. All of the essays are special - inspirational and personal - because they define what's important to the kids right here, right now. One of my kids, Lauren, wrote a particularly insightful essay about the importance of internationalism, especially regarding education. Her words are poignant and universal. Please enjoy this incredible wisdom from an 18 year old kid:

When I started high school, I was basically a loser. I wanted to get in and out as soon as possible, putting in the minimum effort. I didn't think I had much to learn. I could read and write and I knew what I thought about, well, everything. I knew what was right and what was wrong and what needed to change in the world. I still have a moral code. I know what needs to change. But everything else is different.

I started in International Baccalaureate (IB) flat-out disagreeing with a lot of people in it. With their ideologies, political views, study habits even. I also started out wanting to get my diploma basically to prove that I could. I still thought I knew everything, and after two years of the same ole, I figured I needed to do something challenging before I died of apathy.

And now? I still disagree with a lot of people about a lot of things, but my beliefs - and how I view theirs - have altered drastically.

This I believe - if we are to achieve world peace, we must first seek world education. Universal teaching, not necessarily of the same curriculum, but of the same ideal: that people must learn how to think. They must learn to think for themselves, and they must learn to question those thoughts. Every culture in the world gives their children a different beginning. Every country, every village, every family. Each child begins with a foundation, but to question it, examine it.. And to be willing to change it.. How we know what we know?- Theory of Knowledge (TOK) asks. And that's the most important question anyone will ever be posed.

I don't care if every kid learns Mandarin because that's not really the universal language, is it? There will always be translators of words. The hardest thing is to translate thoughts. Beliefs. How do other people think? Where are they coming from? Where are they standing? A lot of wars have been fought over that kind of translation.

I started out headstrong, and I ended up in love with diversity. I'm pretty much a firm believer in learning through experience. I feel like if every student spent two years in class next to a girl as lovely and compassionate as my friend, Yassmin, there would be fewer idiots in the hallways telling jokes at her expense. I believe that if one in a hundred classes could include the incredible variety of human thought that each and every one of ours does - this is what we do where I'm from; this is what my religion says; this is how we think differently, and the same - there would be a lot fewer hate crimes and stupid remarks and just horrible ignorance in general. There are kids in this country, state, and city who barely even see people of a different ethnicity on a daily basis. How on earth are we supposed to be a global community if we don't even get what our neighbors are saying?

I really didn't care when I began this programme. And then it started to sink in: what IB means, and through that, what education means. And I started to care. I know other apathetic students could, too. I believe that if everyone had to go through this - essentially write a college-level thesis in high school, have discussions in every class, research and study with every resource available like their lives depended on it - they would love learning, or at least take a little pride in their educations. I believe that no one would ever fault their child for wanting a college degree, or two, or four, nor would they confuse academia with elitism.

So, yes, I believe in IB. Me, my classmates, my teachers - we could really change the world because whether we realize it or not, we know what to do. I believe in education and yes, even TOK. I believe in myself, and I believe in all of the future CEO's and presidents, and diplomats I share math class with.

This I believe.


This post was inspired by the Loose Bloggers Consortium, a small and feisty(!) global community. We write weekly on a common topic (Voices I Recall, this week) and post responses - all of us together, simultaneously, from all over the world. (Lovely!) Please visit Anu, Ashok, Conrad, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Judy, Magpie 11, Maria and Ramana for other wonderful posts.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Lost

"Do you want to stand in the shade, Pale One?" I asked as we waited. I waved Christine out of the sun and motioned towards my sliver of shade.

"Naw, I'm good," she said, looking at her arms. "Probably this is good for me."

The plain white sign on the door read, "Gone for oysters - Be back in an hour," and was signed by someone of importance, I assumed, though the scribble was fairly illegible. In any case, I didn't have the patience to read the scribble on sign that basically assumed I would have the fortitude to endure the humid Texas heat, the sun blaring down its stifling inferno, for an hour. Plus we had gone and come back an hour ago, more or less, and were no longer amused by the idea of oyster eaters at a tattoo parlor.

There were six of us standing there, sizing each other up. By far, Christine and I were the oldest ones there and probably the only ones with steady salaries and retirement plans. "Kids," I thought. "I wonder if they're old enough to be here?" That's when they struck up a brief conversation:

"Are you here to get a tattoo?" a girl began as she squinted up at me. I wasn't sure what she meant by the question which in my head sounded awfully like, "Are you here to get a tattoo? You seem pretty old. Maybe you're here to sell someone a time share in Florida, the land of retirees. The dry cleaners next door has old people in it. Try there." I forced my lips into a smile.

"Um. Well yeah. I mean I'm adding to one I already have.. So.. is this place worth the wait?"

"Yeah," a boy said, "Absolutely."

The girl continued, "I got my first one here, and see? Look at the work they do. It's amazing." I glanced at the tattoo on the girl's arm and nodded. "I got mine done by Ian," she squealed.

"And Crush did mine," the boy said.

"My first one was done by Crush, but I think Bones is the best," said another one. They all nodded in agreement. "Who do you want to do yours?"

As I looked at the faces of the kids in front of me, I wondered what the hell I was doing there.
"I don't know," I sighed.

I reasoned that I was the only one rational enough to know what I wanted - truly - in a respectable, mature sense. I have lived long enough to understand that body art is forever, and that when parts of my body start to sag, the art will sag too. That's why I had chosen to adorn a strategically firm location. I had even remembered to wear a pretty bra knowing that I would have to pull my shirt off, and I had planned some witty repartee regarding my pregnancy stretch marks. That's what mature people do, isn't it? We rationalize, convince ourselves of something, overcompensate for our flaws, and make excuses.. Right?

Who was I kidding?

I had decided that the kids in front of me were the immature ones when they were more comfortable in their skin than I will ever be. They were ok with waiting for how ever long it took because time didn't really matter to them. They weren't treating me like a lost grown-up aimlessly roaming on their turf. I had projected that. They were not looking down their noses at me. I was at them.

I was done waiting at that realization. I turned around and walked to the car, overcompensating for my embarrassment, my excuse being that waiting for wayward oyster eaters was stupid.

This post was inspired by the Loose Bloggers Consortium, a small and feisty(!) global community. We write weekly on a common topic (Lost, this week) and post responses - all of us together, simultaneously, from all over the world. (Lovely!) Please visit Anu, Ashok, Conrad, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Judy, Magpie 11, Maria and Ramana for other wonderful posts.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Modern Myths: The American Dream

One of my favorite modern myths is the idea that everyone can (and should aim to) attain "The American Dream." Simply defined, the American Dream is the notion that if one works hard enough, no matter his beginnings, he can someday own a suburban home, a white picket fence emphasizing the manicured, weedless lawn. He can wear comfy slippers on Sunday mornings while reading the funnys, smoking a pipe (or vehemently not, depending on the decade), and watching the little ones frolic to and fro. The missus - the love of his life who is 40% homemaker and 60% sexy - is in the kitchen whipping up pancakes and bacon, stopping occasionally to kiss him on the forehead or to remind him about their social commitments - the bunko game at the Smith's or something. Of course there would be work the next morning at a job that would warrant a decent amount of complaining, but only enough to appear confident, productively opinionated, and/or wise so that the next rung on the ladder to a management position might be easily surmounted.

This 1950's, post World War ideal is both antiquated and far fetched. It never really existed in the first place, not to mention the fact that the image was only represented by a single prototype: male and white. Those who have attained what they deem the American Dream tend to snidely look down their noses at people who haven't, yet. They ask brutal questions like, "Why should our tax dollars pay for those who are too lazy to work?" or "Why should we have to take care of immigrants who take our jobs and our land? Tell them to go back to their own countries."

These folks did not take into account variations in pre-American Dream status such as:

Education - This is not only a question of did one go to school and for how long, but in what environment (safe, welcoming, encouraging, intellectual), with what resources (school supplies, lab equipment, healthy lunches), and with what community support (family - mom and dad, especially - and friends)?

Resources - Having money within the existing family initially gives one an automatic leg up. It also allows for more cultural/educational experiences, hobnobbing with important connections, and time (as in you may not have to have an after school job to eat, so you get to spend time having cultural experiences and hobnobbing).

Opportunity - tied to education, culture, friends, and resources

Culture - Is English one's first language? If not, strike one. It certainly makes education more difficult, not to mention finding a job and/or hobnobbing.

Sex - Men still have the advantage.

Luck - plain and simple

These variations, among hundreds of others make the myth that The American Dream is attainable for everyone completely ridiculous. More ludicrous is the idea that some deserve it more than others as a God-given reward for being righteous (of the Christian variety, of course), a very popular belief here in the South. Also, this dream promotes individuality, a trait that, in my opinion, is contrary to human nature.

It is exceedingly rare for folks to break away from the familiar lifestyles and into the upper echelon of the dream. That said, in the same breath I have to also mention that we have it a lot better here than in most places in the world. Our poverty level, though devastating, compared to other countries is minor. Our poor can find food. That, perhaps, is the legitimate American Dream.

Whenever I feel confronted by the elitists who still find ways to demean the downtrodden, I remember Martin Luther King Jr.'s comment (and I'm paraphrasing) that it is completely unfair to ask a man to pull himself up by his bootstraps when he has no boots. King also related that the suburbs are a bane to society, anyway, simply because people can climb into their cars and drive away from the burden of poverty. I think of Lot's wife - the one who has no name and who, therefore, represents any person, who was too caught up in the luxuries of Gomorrah to leave without looking back. She turned into a pillar of salt.

So here we sit - waiting for and working towards attaining some mythical, material American dream. I'm not saying that it's poor form to have money or to want to climb ladders. I am saying that humility is necessary in the ascent, as is helping others without condemnation. Community is essential.

This post was inspired by the Loose Bloggers Consortium, a small and feisty(!) global community. We write weekly on a common topic (Modern Myths, this week) and post responses - all of us together, simultaneously, from all over the world. (Lovely!) Please visit Anu, Ashok, Conrad, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Judy, Magpie 11, Maria and Ramana for other wonderful posts.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lobsta

I had an amazing time in Cape Cod with Fougs's family! Here's a home video of how to eat "Lob-sta'.

video

Thanks for a fantastic time, Mum and Dad B. !!!! (And of course, Christine, my gratitude for the trip and for your friendship is boundless..

(For more Cape Codder adventure pics, click here.)

Friday, May 7, 2010

I just hate it when..

..my agenda is so full (of good lovely happenings and chores) that I have to reduce my life to bullet points:

*Magazine publishing in the works
*International baccalaureate testers testing
*Senior failure list changes
*Seniors whining about being on the senior failure list
*Seniors begging for redoes on all assignments
*Caving in and allowing them to redo whatever
*Grading redoes
*Magazine release party planning in the works
*Cap and Gown disbursement
*The actual planning and teaching part of my job
*Quick, spontaneous week end vacay (:)) Hooray!
*More grading
*Senior Events: farewell celebrations, projects, exams, prom, graduation practice, graduation (they've voted me to read names.. yay..(sigh))
*Multiple family visits: in-laws, step in-laws, brothers, mothers, and dads, all on different dates (the beauty of being in a blended (butchered?) family)

And then summer where (hopefully) I can work on the writing project I want to do.

But maybe being busy to the point of exhaustion is a good thing?