Friday, September 29, 2006

Symbolism Is Hard But Important

"Education that consists in learning things and not the meaning of them is feeding upon the husks and not the corn." - Mark Twain

Symbolism is the systematic or creative use of arbitrary symbols as abstracted representations of concepts or objects and the distinct relationships in between, as they define both context and the narrower definition of terms. That definition alone can make you want to look for the closest exit. Symbolism is difficult because it forces people to stay away from the literal and focus on the abstract. That is not an easy task when you consider that the literal is right there, it is easy. The abstract however requires you to delve deeper and infer meanings that are based around ideas and less on fact. Trees, Lakes, and Light carry such symbolic meanings but often the response of a literal mind is that the literary work is “It just talking about trees.” It is too much for people to make that leap that symbolically the author is talking about growth, family, and/or health.

So now that I have told you about why symbolism is hard let me explain why it is important. The Mark Twain quote explains the idea of learning symbolism well and just learning in general. Understanding things literally is just “feeding upon the husks”, it is purely surface. To learn things and not simply know the meaning is the goal of being an educated person. It is the difference between knowing how to operate something and knowing how that thing works. Symbolism is so important in realizing that concepts and objects are often there to serve in creating an emotional response. Symbolism helps us realize that the author is often talking about a greater context in contemporary politics and society.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Ping Pong Could Ruin My LIfe

Right now I have six men competing for the “World Series of Ping Pong.” This is a tournament that they in fact made up because they are alpha males. My friends and I had dinner and then they came over to my house. As always the first word that comes out of their mouth when they see the ping pong table is “tournament.” That ping pong table can get anybody together. I was even thinking that I should get Israel and Hezbollah to play a friendly game of ping pong and some peace talks. I think it just might work.
You might be asking “How is having the centerpiece of unity a bad thing?” The ping pong table can be a bad thing because so many of my friends randomly come by to play some “pong.” When I tell them I need to plan they look at me like a confused dog. Many of my friends are not teachers and it is difficult to get them to grasp the fact that I need to plan. My job isn’t normal in the sense that I work 9 to 5 and then go home. Often teachers take work home and will create lessons in to the night. I am just saying such a blessing like a ping pong table can also be a heavy weight to bear.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Top 5 Songs To Listen To When You Are Driving To Work

5- Wu-Tang Clan "Cream"

4- The Strokes "Hard To Explain"

3- Daft Punk "Robot Rock"

2- The Walkmen "The Rat"

1- Diana Ross & The Supremes "Baby Love"

* Yes, I do sing in the car. And I have the voice of an angel.

Blogging Is Like A Baby

Yesterday was the first day I didn’t blog and might I say I sort of missed it. I wanted to post something but I was struck with writer’s block and laziness at the same time. It was yesterday that I started to realize that blogging is like a baby because you have to take care of it so much. If you want it to be something that is good you have to spend a lot of time on it. The opposite is something that is underdeveloped and weak.
Comparing a blog to a baby is a bit extreme but hopefully you can see a correlation. This being said I hope I can be a proud “poppa” who raises a child I can be proud of. I don’t have the best track record when it comes to taking care of things. I have never had a plant live longer than a few months and I never had the sole responsibility of taking care of a dog. I guess I will see if this blogging thing works out.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Lazy Sunday

It is today that I finally realized I like running into students outside of school. In the past I have averted my eyes and tried to blend into the wall when I see students. And might I say it is pretty hard to blend into the wall when you are in the produce aisle of a Safeway. I can honestly say that my students in the past have engaged in the same activity of pretending to be invisible. When I was a kid I would have done the same thing. Growing up I was a firm believer that teachers weren’t human and seeing them shopping would be evidence to the contrary. Maybe this is showing how things have changed for me professionally.
On Saturday it was nice to see one of my students in line at McDonalds and yell his name. I’m pretty sure when he heard “Hey Deters” the last person he expected it to be was his English teacher. Today when I went to Sports Chalet to buy a soccer ball I ran into another one of my students. It was nice to have a student walk up to me and say “Hello Mr. Landeros.” Even though I had on some running shorts, the beginning level of a beard, and a shirt that had paint all over it. Once again this is just more evidence explaining why this year is so different. Last year it was students trying to ignore the fact that I actually exist outside of school and today I had a student just come up to and say “I just wanted to say hi.” So if you see me outside of school say hello and more importantly offer me your discount.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

About Death

The transition from Jose Uribe to death seems awkward so I won’t even try. Today I was reading some of my student’s reflective writing pieces on death. I am impressed with my students and how open they can be. I remember being so afraid to let teachers know the real me. My students wrote about emotionally crushing experiences. To take that leap of faith shows how open and mature they are.
I am sort of embarrassed to say that I didn’t share my stories. Being a scared eighteen year old and crying uncontrollably in front of Kaiser Permanente in Vallejo was something I didn’t share. I remember watching my dad in a moment of weakness as he stood by his grandmother’s side realizing that this could be the last time. Or remembering my brother tell me how he spent two hours digging a proper burial for our dog, Odie, in a torrential down pour. In thinking about all my stories and my student’s stories I realized that experiencing death is not a moment of weakness but more strength; the strength of being able to show emotion and not hide your feelings. This is a moment where my students something. My students have taught me how important death is in our lives and that true strength is learning something from those moments.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Fridays Are Great

More specifically this Friday was great. You know it was a good day when I spent two hours at American Tire Co. getting my flat tire fixed and still can reflect positively about the day. Even though I lost two hours of my life I was still able to do a whole lot of my favorite thing which is nothing. It was a blast hanging out at my friend’s house and eating some fine Vietnamese cuisine. We taunted his brothers as they played Halo. I know what you are thinking; you are an adult and you decided bothering people would be a good use of time. I never claimed to be mature so stop the judging.
After that it was off to the A’s game in Oakland. I am a huge Giants fan and no Nick Swisher is going to take away the memory of watching Robby Thompson and Jose Uribe flip a double play. An Eric Chavez diving stop will never add up to watching Will Clark and Matt Williams hit back to back home runs. That being said it was great watching some baseball with a good friend. The atmosphere was also aided by a most excellent plate of Nachos. It was an exciting game that had three home runs. It went 12 innings with the A’s finally winning. Now that is America’s pastime; nachos, home runs, and extra innings. I ended the night talking to my brother about his new job at Vans. He bought some Air Jordan shoes that he wanted really bad.
In case I didn’t mention this before my brother is pretty awesome. An example of his awesomeness is the fact that a week before he got his job at Van’s he sprained his wrist and got a good sized knee scrape trying to “bomb” a hill. This gave him instant credibility at Van’s because he hurt himself in a skateboarding related injury. See a nice simple day that had whole lot of nothing which is my favorite thing.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Days Like This Is Why I Love Teaching

This whole week I have been a walking ghost. I have a mighty vicious sinus infection. I was hopped up on Sudafed the whole day. The only thing that I was truly looking forward to was the lesson I created. We have been talking about reflective writing this whole month and today was the wrap up. I wanted to switch the class up from the usual reflective samples we have been reading. With this in mind I created a lesson that discussed how pictures can get us to reflect and how music contains reflection.
It was nice to see the students enjoying the lesson that I had worked on. The students here really appreciate when teachers to go the extra mile. I had students ask “Who took these pictures, they’re good?” It was nice to say that I had taken them on recent vacations. It was a pleasant surprise to see that my students actually liked the songs I chose for reflecting on. I thought Johnny Cash, Gil Scott-Heron, and Diana Ross & The Supremes would be a tough sell. I was expecting to hear a student say “Why can’t we listen to E-40’s music?” which I still did hear anyway.
I think that is what makes the school really great. The students really do appreciate it when you go the extra mile. Forgive me if that sounds corny but it is true. That in kind makes it worth it for teachers to create good lessons. Often teachers get into the profession because they want to aid students in becoming the best they possibly can but every once and a while it is nice to hear that you are appreciated. It is also nice to explain to a class of 25 why you don’t trust cows. I am pretty sure it was the Sudafed kicking in when I told my students I didn’t trust cows because they can’t talk back. Or telling a student about your guilty pleasures, like Justin Timberlake's music. Please forgive me if there are any errors it is the Sudafed making me do these things.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I Lost A LCD Projector !!!

Before sixth period I noticed that the LCD projector was not in its usual spot, this was a concern because I was going to use it the next day. I looked in all the drawers and cabinets and no sign of the LCD projector. I had to start class so I didn’t have time to get into panic mode. When sixth period let out I was officially in panic mode. I tried to remember if I had seen the projector in the morning. But I realized that I am not the most observant person in the morning probably because my eyes aren’t completely open yet.
I started thinking about the possible scenarios. There are three teachers that teach in my room so there was a bunch of possible outcomes. Maybe one of the teachers lent it out. Maybe I left the door unlocked and it was open season for anybody in the market for an LCD projector.
The whole drive home I was thinking that I was a complete moron who had managed to lose a $1,500 piece of equipment. I think I am a responsible and organized but lapses do happen. I came to work with that same sinking feeling still in my stomach; it got worse when my Assistant Principal asked me if I knew what happened to the LCD. Like an idiot I had to answer “NOPE.” By lunch it had turned up thankfully. It turns out that another teacher had stored it away because there was a substitute and he was unsure of the sub’s ability to keep an eye on that same $1,500 piece of equipment.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Why Is There A Rake In My Lawn?

This isn’t metaphor for anything; I literally had a rake on my lawn. I come home today and noticed a rusted rake hiding in the tall grass. The whole time I was walking to my mailbox I was wondering how it got there. Was there a Gardner on the run who had to dump his evidence? Is it someone who was trying to give me a hint to tell me to clean my yard? Or is someone playing a nonsensical prank on me. Maybe someone else is writing a blog about putting random things on my lawn.
I mean it is a really nice rake and all. If I owned this rake I would never let it go out of my sight and someone easily dumped it in my lawn like it was a candy wrapper. I don’t think this post is really going anywhere so I am just going to stop.

Monday, September 18, 2006

My Life Grading

Somebody told me recently that you spend 33% of your life sleeping. That piece of trivia got me thinking about how much time I spend grading. I think that I will spend about 10% of my life grading. Not just my teaching carreer but my whole entire life! Lets say I live to 75 that means that I will have spent 7.5 years grading papers. It makes sense to me. I grade papers during the little free time I have at school and then I take piles of papers home. I very rarely use the word immense to describe anything but I think I would describe my stacks of papers as immense or maybe even mamouth.
Imagine a mamouth stack of papers. I enjoy reading all the intriguing stories that my students create. It is great to see their personalities jump from the paper. Also I know it is one of the most battle tested ways of checking for understanding but sometimes it is just too much. I don't think there is an answer to my question or if I am even asking question. Oh well, I guess I am just complaining. Now that I am done ranting I am going to go and grade some papers.

The First Thoughts

To give you an idea of how hectic my life has been this last month, I had originally hoped to set up my blog in the middle of August. I set this blog up selfishly. I thought blogging would make me reflect about all the; great, touching, horrible, insane, and mundane things about teaching. In the first month of teaching at my new school I have already learned so much.

1-The students I have are some of the most fascinating people I have ever met. I look at them and realize how incredibly bright their future’s can be. I reflect about myself at their age and I recognize that I was just a sack of potatoes my senior year compared to my students.

2-I still wonder if admitting you don’t know it all means that you know a whole lot more than you think do. Through out the course of the day I come to understand that there is so much out there I still need to learn. Sometimes, “I don’t know” is the most honest thing I say.

3-A place is made up of people. A school is not just; a bunch of classes, a cafeteria, and in the case of my school a bingo hall. A school is made up of; smiling students’ faces, teachers striking up conversations with students in the hall, and everybody feeling that they are involved in something special no matter what their role is.

4-I am really learning as my students are learning. I am teaching reflective writing and I am thinking about all the things that I feel blessed for going through, for good or bad.

5-On that same point, I am realizing I can learn so much from my students. I have learned; the difference between present perfect progressive and present emphatic, what loss truly is, how we cope as human beings is often individual, and that sometimes maturity has nothing to do with age. (Oh yeah, and how to wrestle a shark)

6-Knowing I can ask for help at anytime and get it is something new to me. I was brought into teaching with the old teaching in a box routine. I stayed in my room until I figured it out, whatever it was. Here the teachers are all so helpful; either with a handshake in the morning from a veteran history teacher, a teacher making literal and figurative space for me in her classroom, or a new teacher just like me working together to figure out what exactly we are trying to do.

7-Sometimes I realize that me standing in front of a group of kids is not a good idea. Maybe it was when I started showing my students a site called Kitten War or maybe it was when I couldn’t keep a straight face after one of my students made a physical blunder.

8- I need more sleep.

9-The responsibility of being a teacher is pretty immense. I am standing in front of a class of high school seniors and I realize that I play a part in them being successful at the next level. It may sound vain but I think this is true. I reflect on being a freshman in college and realizing how unprepared I was. I don’t want my students to have the same deer in the headlights look that I had.

10-This is going to be a great year. And this isn’t just because I need a tenth reflection on my list. A list of nine things just seems odd anyways. It is going to be a great year because I have no evidence to prove the contrary. I like waking up at 6:30 and putting my dress shirt and pants to go to a school that I feel lucky to be at.