April 2004 Archives

Retiring at 25

So on Monday, it will be official. I talked to a friend of mine who has started her own reading center, and in September, I will be working for her 20 hours a week. I will make $30 an hour, which leaves me time to take on students of my own in SF at $60/hr, to attend night school for my reading specialist credential, and to start writing books for children. The only thing it will not allow me to do is buy a house right away, but I think that's good. I've still got a little too much Walden in me to shackle myself to a Bay Area mortgage just yet. Actually, if I can get 10 students (which would put me at 30 hrs/wk), I would make 60k/yr.

It's good to have skills.

Major Breakthrough


So last night on MUNI, I ran into a girl I went to St. John's with. It was great, we did the catching up thing and the asking about people we knew thing, we even did the reliving the glory of Great Books by dead white men thing. All in all, a successful escapade all on its own. But we also went to a bar, Fishbowl, that turns out to be the secret lair of all the popular boys from high school. I sat and gawked for some time, marveling at the remarkably low-quality competition (in my opinion, we could take them any day of the week). Something is clearly amiss and may require futher investigation, but none of this was so compelling as the post-libation discussion with my compatriot (yes, St. John's is its own country). A gentleman had been expressing great interest in my friend, and she summed up his qualities as follows " sure, he's beautiful, and clearly fairly smart, even kind of sweet, but I find I can never get really into anyone who hasn't read the classics."

I am not alone. I haven't dated anyone since college, and have never dated anyone who can't read Attic Greek, but it has nothing to do with latent tendencies, I'm just over-educated. We talked for a bit about ways would-be suitors could waive the classics requirement and agreed that an avid predilection for mastery in one's chosen field is perfectly acceptable, so long as it is coupled with an openness to our obsession with dead poets, and a whole-hearted acknowledgement that one knows nothing of great literature. She recounted a dismal affair in which a boy tried to read her Shakespearean sonnets, but couldn't do it with the right meter, and she was permanently turned off. She thinks she's an elitist, but I say you can't help who lights your fire. Some people go for dark eyebrows on blondes (no matter what their age) and some of us just groove on dactylic hexameter. What can you do?



My new favorite sophomore boy quote: when coming up with a list of descriptive words to use instead of color names one boy asked if he could put "a natural resource for white."

Yesterday was a very stressful day because I was being observed in the morning by the department chair. But the kids were good and the lesson went fine. Afterwards she said she had talked to some people about splitting a job Math/English, but didn't think it would work. I told her I hadn't pursued it because I was considering going back for a reading specialist credential. She said that the school has an opening for a reading teacher (does the universe never stop smiling on me?).

It would be nice to both stay at the school I started at and become a reading specialist. It wouldn't pay as much as being a private reading specialist, and it wouldn't be with little kids--it would be high schoolers, so it would be more stressful and possibly less rewarding, but it would be stable income and I would get to feel like I didn't bail on people who need me. If I didn't like it, I could always leave the following year.

Later in the day, I gave out the books. I ended up sending the girl who had gotten in my face to the VP's office for refusing to work, distracting other kids, and then arguing with me about why she should have to work. She has a behavior disorder, so I'm sure that she's not making the connection between her D and not working in class. Then I sent a letter to her caseworker.

At night, I talked to Maggie about how rude my kids are to each other (and me). I have consequences for not working, for fighting, for being off-task, but none for just saying inappropriate things. Maggie suggested just telling them that that sort of thing isn't acceptable here. "Maybe no one's ever told them," she said. I suppose that's possible--that no one has explicitly said "we don't make personal comments to those we work with." We'll try it next time and see how it goes.



Today was relatively unaffected by the slacker holiday, with the exception of one kid making the vocab sentence, "I blithely smoked a blunt."

Though drugs were not a problem, violence was. In a gang shooting this weekend, a former student's father was killed. The surviving mother and family cannot afford the funeral, so leadership students came around at fourth period to collect donations. None of the kids offered anything.

The rest of the day was spent in the usual cacophony of whining and complaints, but the kids did what they were supposed to (interview their fellow students for lit circles) and some of them were even reading! They were reading the book before they were even supposed to! This may be my most brilliant scheme to make them literate yet. We'll see.

I spent the remaining afternoon and most of my evening going to the seven Border's and Barnes and Noble bookstores between work and home collecting as many of the books they chose (but that we don't actually have) as possible. Those I couldn't find will have to be overnighted from Amazon.

Coincidentally, a HUGE thank you goes to Dan. When he became a monk, he said to sell all his possessions and donate the money to charity. So that's what I did. I took as money books as I could, traded them for cash, and used that money to buy the books today. Happy birthday, Dan, and thank you for making it possible for my students to choose a book about their lives.

So I'm not really a big fan of this whole "blog qua journal" thing, but I feel like after two months of civil service immersion, it may be time to invite some self-reflection back into my life. And who's more necessary to the process of self-reflection than the teeming masses of the internet? So here I go.

Today, one of my black students called the German exchange student "Hitler" while asking him for a pencil. I think he meant it to be funny. Following the sharp intake of air from the rest of the class, I told him he couldn't do that, to apologize to the German kid, and then go to the Vice Principal. Now the problem with this is that the VP is leaving at the end of this year and has become remarkably lax. So I let the kid stay after apologizing. I think tomorrow, when he's not expecting it, I'll ask him how he would feel if one of the kids called him a "filthy nigger" and see if I can't impress upon him the need for some cultural cache, even if it is only refraining from calling others homicidal megalomaniacs.

Today a student came into my room screaming at me during brunch that she had worked really hard on her essay and done really well on it, and should at least have a B, though she currently has a D. When I tried to explain to the student that her grade was an indication of the fact that she had turned in none of the assignments this semester that would demonstrate she had been doing any of the required reading, she stormed out and asked me to just give her the F. Most of my students are getting F's because they neither did the reading, nor any homework, nor the essay.

Today I also discovered that the list I was given of books we have to choose from is faulty. This comes, unfortunately, after having already let the students choose what to read from the list. We happen not to have the two most popular books. I asked the librarian if she could check with the other libraries in the district, since I know one of the other schools has a set of at least one of the books, and fellow teachers tell me this is done not infrequently. The librarian looked as though I had just asked her to move the rock of Gibralter and said 'she'd try.' I suppose I will copy chapters for them until I can track down enough of the books, but the prospects don't look good. I expect to have to buy them.

After I finish typing this, I will plan tomorrow, create a new seating chart, create a list of vocabulary definitions and examples, grade vocab quizzes, create a calendar for the next month of days they will have book discussions, and go buy at least one copy of the book, sixty of which have mysteriously disappeared from the library.

Really, today would indicate that I have a job that is not only thankless, but involves taking verbal abuse, requires every spare moment of my time, is stressful, and unrewarding. You may wait to see what tomorrow will indicate. But I, I am going to call my friend about getting a different job.

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