Wednesday, November 30, 2005

talking about gender with sixth graders

I love my sixth grade peace games class. Ms. Mauve, as I'll call her, is a shining example of a non burntout cps veteran. I've heard her raise her voice, but never yell. She nearly always sits next to whoever the biggest troublemaker may be on a particular day and hangs out with them and her level of participation in our class is perfect. Sometimes she'll make a quip or clarification here and there, but more often she just thanks and congratulates her students when they participate well.

Here's the other thing, today was our second and final week discussing gender: how it is different from sex, how we place values on the masculine and feminine continuum, stereotyping and I definitely heard the word 'transgender' explained to at least one of the classes last week. The kids wrote poems about the opposite gender last week and they came out more or less as one would expect/the same as a group of nineteen year olds.

"Girls are pretty Girls are
neat Girls are picky Girls do there feet.

girl-are ungreatful and some
like to show and some stupid."

"Girls are very ellegant. Grils are emotional. Girls are very polite. Girls are attractive. There also tricks and stupid. They are also creative. There wanna-bees. They have good manners."

"Some boys are fine.
Some boys are nice some rock ice
Some boys are nasty. disrespectful.
Some boys are smart
some boys are very dumb
some just ugly!!!"

"Boys are cheaters.
Some boys are cute, some are ugly, some are strong. Some are week. Boys are rough and some bother. Some are funny and some are boring. They never care about there girls. Some are disreaspectful and some are gentlemen. Boys, boys, boys!"

-oh and all is very much -

So THIS week, we reviewed the difference between sex and gender and the definition of stereotypes and the students went back into their groups to give a response which defines their own sex rather than write of the other. It was pretty amazing and here's my two favorites:

Girls are...

Girls are pretty
Girls are fine
Girls are nice so am I.
Girls are not stupid
Girls read magzine
Girls were bling, bling.
Girls are different and so is
Our Pride.

We think nice and we think mean cause we don't think all boys are clean.
We go shopping while the boys go hopping.
and, as far as I'm concerned, the winner

Some things that the girls said about us were disrespectful. Us boys know we can be mean and disrespectful but girls are the same. Us boys think that the girls shouldn't judge us by our looks. They should judge us by our personality. Some boys can be funny and romantic even though were ugly. Mostly all the cute boys worry to much about football or sports. But some boys worry about school and there family, and our group are the ones that think about school, family and some of the girls. You know sometimes a boys got to do what a boys got to do but that doesn't mean we like to hurt you girls. Sometimes us boys can talk about sports and leave the girls out but it doesn't mean we dont care about the girls feelings because we do. Sometimes we can be bossy and the girls can be bossy too. Sometimes us boys can send a girl qa flower and that showshow much we care about them. Even though sometimes you guys start to talk about boys and sometimes boys like to talk about girls but we still love the girls

Later we were doing a class discussion about what stereotypes or feelings the class agreed with and the same boy who wrote much of the above asked the class if they thought that boys could be as romantic as girls.
"Define romance." Miss Muaved chirped in-

"Well like, I could set a table on a beach and serve her dinner while the sun sets... oh and I would bring roses too."
So yeah, that kid is twelve and Im clearly a terrible scrub.

Shoot, wasn't this whole post just the skits in 'the miseducation of lauren hill'?

moment to myself-

cause after searching the school and asking several folks I find that my math student is absent. I had just finished making him some worksheets too!

I told miss teacher that I love being in her class cause she never takes the five year old's cuteness for granted. A dozen girls with jinglebells on their wrists backup dancing in front of the class while the one without two front teeth lipsynchs into a marker. Generic soulholiday music. magic.

Hung out with scurrrica last night. She has a very comparable job, except its a montossori school, the kids are rich and white and she's paid regular money rather than 'stipend' and foodstamps. Good thoughts about sandpaper letters and recognizing that the breakdown at my school seems to come right around 2nd grade. Scene gossip and sick friends and the refreshing race relations that exist in the atl. I suppose if this blog continues not being so much about the collapse of the public school system and the roles that class, race and gender-based oppression play in it, the two of us could just turn it into a waycute calendar of five year olds painting each other's faces and having speech impediments.

A boy I met two weeks ago died a couple of days ago. Friends of friends + roomates... a really cool guy visiting/back in town, another native southsider- drag, concern and love for those close to him. Another reminder of the lack of faith in my life.

Im so broke right now it went back around from being not funny to being ridiculous. I sang 'stay' by lisa loeb at karoake and maybe there was a single tear rolling down everybody's cheek.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

new to me

last friday:
"This boy has a lot of problems, etc etc. He now only goes to 1 and a half class periods a day. The rest of the time, he receives individual assistance or does community service. Is anyone available?"

That is the question (give or take) that I responded yes to on friday. Today, without any preparation I was "Tutoring" math. I put tutoring in quotes because I am the only one working on math with him. Eleven years old, knows some timetables, but very few... addition/subtraction is okay (uses fingers alot) but has no idea of division or fractions. Mostly, S told me that the way he writes his name is raw and that he calls the security woman Mike Jones cause her name is Miss Jones. He slid down the bannister and I chose my battles. Math is a big enough one. Now, I just need to find a curriculum.

oh, and in separation of church and state news, I don't think its very bad that miss kindergarten has the kids singing and acting out 'little drummer boy" as long as I get to play the drummer while she pretends to be mary and a violent little, peanut-sized girl gets to be jesus AKA the king. I mean, I wouldnt play the song for 5 year olds, but they seem young enough for it not to be relevant... or I've gone soft in my own cryptomarxist, lapsed catholic kinda way. Not liberal though, thats all I know.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

picture day!

yes, adorable. Removing diamond studs from a five year old boy's relatively recently pierced ears. R wearing the kiddie version of that denim roca dress that snokilla almost bought from valuecity (yup, it probably was a mistake not to get it), the only difference aside from the size being the embroidery "school of roc" in pink. Girl with amazing curls having her hair down all giggly. oh oh and "mr. f- check out my new boots" lifting cuffs to show off tims.

sure all cute, but the best was giving each kid a comb cause you can't just give combs to the five or seven kids whose hair the combs are made for. So then all of them first say 'ow!' then collectively comb the hair of the few.

Can't wait to get a cafeteria lunch on IOU today: fried chicken, greens, cornbread and sweet potato...

Just three six grade peacegames and Im off for a nearly unimaginable four day weekend!

oh and pps. my favorite mix of the moment goes like this
-candy girl by new edition
-bring in the instrumental of step in the name of love
-drop in the acapella of "conversation" by mannie fresh after new edition's managers stop by
-then the dirt off your shoulder instrumental

ohoh and dont forget the outhud-deadprez-neworder-afrikabambaata+johnnyrotten as timezone- noise acid house mix with scorpio thrown in for good measure.

who wants a mixxxtape?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


okay, so j has an imaginary friend named darnell and I think the way he communicates with him is by this crazy robot electro beatbox thing he does when made to sit in the corner. Unfortunately its not quite loud enough to hear it well.

In other news, all these kids are getting spanked. roughly 8 or so get whooped by hand, most of em with a belt, and one of them gets spanked with a shoe.

Teacher says 'good for your mamas' and asked what they would do if they were the mama in the book we were reading. Harriet had just thrown a tantrum and tore her pillow up, so now her ma was flipping out-
'I'd give her a little slap on the bottom.' says S and all nod in agreement.

Monday, November 21, 2005

when I say 'peace' yall say 'games'

So, today's the day of hanging out with the rest of the americorpse at the settlement house and talking about how things are going, how they've been, how they should be. I realize one of the problems of my blog is the lack of posting about a huge chunk of my job: PEACE GAMES.

While the first two hours of everyday at school is spent with those adorable kindygarteners, the rest is largely spent in the PG curriculum. Every class shy of junior high is given 45 minutes a week of two americorps volunteers trying to make a coherent and maybe exciting class of a program meant to teach 'social and emotional understanding'.

So what exactly does that mean?

Sadly, we're all still figuring out a program that simply broken down goes like this:
k-2nd grade= love yourself, your family and your classmates
3-4th= we're all unique and our differences are cool + stand up to bullies
5-6th= conflict resolution? cultural pride? community issues? organizing your community against racism?

Everything up to fourth grade is relatively smooth. Well, relatively is relative. The kids are still young enough to be excited that someone new comes by and talks about something totally separate from everything else they do. Classroom management is an issue in every grade (read: keeping the kids quiet and focused and not trashing the place), but nowhere as near an issue as it is with the older kids.

The fifth and sixth grades are falling apart. Both have lost teachers since the beginning of the year. After every "yeah, sounds good" teacher toured the sixth grade never to return (including a man trained for special ed) the teacherless class was dissolved into overloaded others. A teacher was found to fill the gap in fifth grade about two or three weeks ago. I ran into her in the hallway.

"So, you're taking over for ms.__? That's really great, how's it going?"

"Um, well I only committed to be here till winter break.... it's okay, but I know I'd have it easier anywhere else I went..." She's young and friendly. I couldn't wait till I had peace games with a real teacher, rather than the sub for a sub reception we got the first two weeks.

I ran into her again a couple of days later. Someone ganked some cash from her purse while it was hanging on the back of her chair. She complained to (or in front of, or within earshot) the father of a student and he responded angrily. "why didn't you put it somewhere safe?!?"

Last friday, peace games in the class broke into the recess period the school doesn't schedule. It was better than the previous weeks and the sub was happy that the kids were burning off that energy. She drew cartoons while we played rhythmic handslap games.

So far, the two biggest problems are keeping peace games clearly attached to some sort of education and dealing with cps teachers who are horribly burnt out. They scream untill they are horse, flip the lights on and off (which only makes freaking out more exciting), and (in the case of one teacher) blow a fucking steel whistle.

Whistleblower at one point called the peace games teachers in her room and explained that, "These kids need to be yelled at. It's the only thing they understand. It's the only thing that worked." Not only are we spending a huge amount of time talking about productive ways of communicating, but anyone who spent longer than twelve seconds in her room could tell you that not only does it not work, but creates chaos which is not seen in other classrooms. Her fifth graders scream incessently. They never ever listen to each other, or her. If not screaming in their chairs they stand up to dance and knock over chairs. Every several minutes she'll blow the whistle and scream. Her students respond with absolute silence they fill with eye rolls, desk drawings and the classic under-the-table kick.

When you were in fifth grade was there a popular thing to yell that is dirty, but not? My class did. We moaned "oh roger". This class yells "Tuna". I'm almost positive it means "pussy".

This last week was relatively successful. We told whistleblower that we were gonna make the class quiet for a sort of meditation excercise. After being pretty snide about it to both my coteacher and boss during the day ("another interruption" she sighed as she opened the door for my boss taking boombox census), she greeted us with an out of character smile. She screamed at the class for a second ("rarrr. Treat peace games with respect.") and said she would be working on something just outside. I believe this was all passive aggression. She skipped out as we flipped off the lights, put on some soothing spanish guitar music and told the kids to put their heads down. "You have no need to talk right now".

It went okay. We approached the six minute mark before the noise level was enough to end the quiet time. An impressive first time as far as I'm concerned.

The whistle wasn't blown untill the very end of class. We'll be doing quiet time again as it seems the only beginning to discussing communication- the creation of a first moment of quiet on friday at 1:50pm.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Everything's my jam

I came into kindergarten today and heard the sweet sounds of LOVE FM. During an afterschool program somebody was able to tune it in for teacher, so now it stays on forever, never to be lost. If the radio needs to be off, the volume is just turned lower.

An hour or so later, all the kids are sitting on the carpet listening to teacher read when suddenly-

"Oooh! this is my SONG!" Teacher starts bobbing and snapping. "Class hush up, this is my song!" I put the volume up a bit and she started singing. Giggling kids were quieted and then

"Hey D! Come up here and dance with me..." Beautiful. Five year olds should always be asked to dance.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

songs five year olds shouldnt sing

"I slang in my white tee"
-x while I was tutoring him. Note: he just kept repeating that line while giggling

-j, while coloring today... if you dont know the song you clearly havent seen "Hustle and Flow"

oh, I forgot about "gasolina" and "candyshop", I assume the entendres in both are way out of the league of 5 year olds.... I mean, shit, "candyshop" probably seems like an awesome song about eating candy.


A week ago those in my five person acorps group attempted to hold auditions for a talent show. I took notes and found the most frequent mark was "BD".

"Slight BD. Choreography needs work."

"One girl couldn't stop laughing. Way too much BD. Insanely BD + song is in spanish, but vulgur nonetheless."

"Solo house dance. Not BD, but shakey and only choreographed in the chorus."

Yes, BD stands for nothing less than bootydancing, which (unless your ten or sick) is a bit unpleasant to see a grade schooler do.

So the show was postponed until spring (it was supposed to be in two or three weeks) and now we have talent club going on as I type.

It warms my heart to see 90% of these kids bringing in burned cds. Mariah Carey and Usher dont need their money, or do they?

No, but I need Usher's $$$. Next time he's in the chi...............

Ohmygod, choreography practice to shake it off... this is amazing.

"get in the triangle first and then go like this..."
"Do you guys ever count when you dance?"

oh and two kids are working on a flipping routine. syeaH

Monday, November 07, 2005

the cock crows for you

snokilla and I walking down Levitt between 34th and 35th:

"Holy Shit! Look at that!"

"Whoa is that a turkey walking around?"

"No you dumbass, its a rooster. Don't you know farm animals?" (no, I dont)

We saw two kids looking out the window of the house. I motioned to them to ask if it was their rooster. They gave us the universal sign for flabbergasted.

We didn't get too close as it is surely trained to kill in prizefighting competition.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

"children are inherently criminal"

I think that quote is from George Bernard Shaw. I believe it to a degree, but not as much as the bag checkers.

Random searches today in the auditoriom for all the kids coming to school in the morning. Really, they needed to search the kindergarteners?

"They took everything out of my backpack. Did you get searched it happened in the auditoriom."

"I can search my own backpack!" Damn right kid.

Then teacher and I played volleyball for the class to watch. I don't think anything ever will compare to having 30 5year olds chant for me to humiliate the teacher and throw themselves on the ground trying to catch missed spikes.

PS. "Do you like snoop dogg? I like Lil bowWow! and I like snoop dogg. dee oh double G!"

Good thing we're teaching these kids to feel like they should be hiding something, eh?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

5year olds writing pumpkin stories

my favorites include:

"Once upon a time, a man had a pumpkin tied to a string. The string broke and the pumpkin fell on the car."

"Once upon a time, there was a boy named kuan. He went to the pumpkin class and the monsters came in."

"The ghost came to school to chase the pumpkin."

I think I may have been born to teach kids who are filled with adorability + they hug me now.