Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bet you're jealous

Want to know what we spent on gas this month?


And since we pre-paid for two annual public transit passes last month, we didn't have the usual $40 or so in transit fares.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Can someone just shoot me now?

Trea had her first dance class tonight. She's been begging for months to dance; I called around to some studios, but it seemed ridiculous to spend $35-40 a month, pay a registration fee, a costume fee, a recital fee, and buy her a bunch of dance clothes. She's three. She changes her mind a lot. I'm not making an investment until I'm sure she really likes it.

So, I found a class in our community learning catalog. Six weeks for $39, no performance, no special clothes. The class description was "basic creative dance steps in a fun, positive, and nurturing environment" and stated that children would learn "creative skills of expression." Excellent. I took dance at Trea's age, and I learned "I'm a little Teapot" and danced around with a scarf. I loved it. She can try it and if she hates it, no big deal.

I told Trea in the morning that we were going to dance class that afternoon. She asked every half hour after that, if it was time for her class. She told everyone who sat by us on the bus, TRAX, and the bus again that she was going to dance class. They were all thrilled to hear it (actually, everyone was very nice to her.) She kept talking about dancing with a boy, and how she HAD to wear a skirt, not pants, because the boys wanted to see her dance in a skirt (I really don't know where that came from, but I kept telling her that her class might be all girls, and she kept insisting that there would be a boy there for her to dance with. Whatever.)

So. We arrive at the high school, and the teacher starts talking. First, it's ten weeks instead of six; oops! Not that big of a deal, except that we were also thinking of doing swim lessons down the line, and her cousin wants to take with her, and I don't want a bunch of classes dictating our lives. But okay. Then, there IS a performance. Ugh. Don't want to deal with that. No reason, I just don't. Then, all the other little girls showed up in little pink leotards. Some even had tights and shoes and little skirts. Some of them had tights but no shoes, which is a bad, bad combo with a wooden dance floor. Trea wanted to wear her black tulle skirt with sequins on it; you're probably wondering why she has such a skirt. It was a gift from Ariana, my old roommate, who whips stuff like this out in her spare time. It was intended for dress-up, and has been frequently used for that purpose. Today it was also used for dance. I paired it with a green t-shirt. I talked her into forgoing the matching cape. I thought she looked cute, but she, um, stood out amidst the sea of pale pink.

Then the class starts. The teacher spends several minutes teaching them first position. And you can tell she really thinks they need to know this, because she keeps drilling it. "What position is this? Remember? It's FIRST POSITION. Can you say that? FIRST POSITION. " She even went around and corrected them. They are THREE. Then she moved on to plies (where's my little accent mark?) and simple movements. She even had them do leaping over a piece of paper on the floor. Some of them can barely hop; running and leaping is a bit much to ask, you know?

Fifteen minutes into the class, a little boy and his mom walk in. Trea had to call out to me, "Mama! Look, it's a boy! This is a boy!"

Yes, sweetheart, I know.

The intro to ballet was followed by a trip to the water fountain, because you know 3 year olds can't last an hour without a drink. The teacher lined them all up, placed their hands on the kid in front of them, and made train noises as they inched towards the door. They almost made it before one little girl slipped and tripped up three girls behind her, and they all came to a halt. A total train wreck. I secretly think the teacher was killing time. I would too.

You know the worst part of it? The music. Would YOU choose the theme from St. Elsewhere for a class for 3-4 year olds? Would you choose it for anything? NO!

I don't get where the fun and creative part of it is. After class I asked the teacher if this was a typical class, and she said it was. I expressed my concerns about it being so structured, and she said, "This is what I do."

Thanks for the reassurance. I don't think you have any clue how to teach preschoolers, by the way.

The teacher approached all the parents after class and admitted that the class was overly full, there were 15 kids and that was too many, and she needed some to switch to Thursday. I obviously can't switch, but I might drop.

Only Trea LOVED it.

Dang it.

Two citizens down and 1,209,480,000 to go

We have no more openings at my school. Sorry, I know so many of you were eager to work there - but the positions have all been filled. We now have M, a BYU grad who majored in Spanish and has a TESOL cert from the U; I like her, though I wish she'd stop snickering when she hears me attempt Spanish. I know it's probably hard NOT to laugh, but some appreciation of how difficult it is would be appreciated. We also have A, who used to be a tutor for our school way back in the day, and liked it so much she lived in three different countries as an ESL teacher before coming back to the U.S. for her master's. She's partway through a Ph.D program. A little intimidating, all that education, but she's very nice and not at all more-educated-than-thou. I like her.

Rounding out the staff is our lone representative of the male gender, R. R is Iranian by birth and speaks Farsi, Arabic and a little Turkish. He has a master's degree and oodles of experience. He also has a smile reminiscent of Vizzini in "The Princess Bride," the one he's wearing right before he keels over dead. He squints his eyes and smiles, quite literally, ear to ear and reveals both top and bottom teeth. Fortunately he has fine teeth, if Phineas went around smiling like that I might be ill. Phineas is not overly cheery, though, so no worries. (Speaking of Phineas, he's not really my tutor anymore, as B "borrowed" him for one of her students. I think she thinks she is going to give him back - she hasn't put him on her matching sheet and keeps asking me if it's ok for her to use him. As far as I'm concerned, he's not mine anymore - I don't have students for him. He really belongs to her. But I don't think she wants permanent custody. Hmmm.) Back to R - he's really very nice, I think he just tries too hard. You tell him, "This is the copy machine" and he responds "That's great! Fantastic!" So he's a little over-the-top but infinitely preferable to the candidate who flamed out after only one night, totally unable to do the job, and besides that her personality had us all wondering if perhaps she had taken some Valium by mistake.

Also, FANTASTIC news, another one of my students passed her citizenship test yesterday. This is proof that miracles really do happen. I really wonder if it was just pity on the part of the examining officer - her spoken English is marginal, her written English is worse, and she has a horrible time remembering facts. She claims to have dementia but we don't have it documented. She's been with the school five years though, and never made a level gain, so certainly SOMETHING is going on. At any rate she's got her citizenship now, and I am crazy happy for her. I didn't really want to go to work yesterday - I've got a cold, Adia's got a cold, I was tired and congested and achy - but that made my day.

Also, my Somalian student passed HIS citizenship test! I didn't even know he was studying for it. He was super excited yesterday, telling me about his swearing in date, and how he thought coming to class was helping him because he was able to read the test manual on his own. He said he studied all weekend for it. I also asked him if his wife was interested in coming to school. He said yes, but they have two young children and didn't know what to do with them if they both studied. I told him there were a couple of options, and we should at least get her application in and on the wait list for babysitting. He seemed surprised that we provided babysitting, and also really excited. It sounds like she would like to come. I know firsthand how lonely it can be in a foreign country, and I wasn't even home with kids all day. I think there's a community here of Somalians but if we could offer her a little change of pace, and a chance to improve her English, that would be awesome.

The depressing thing is, our waiting list is so freaking long right now. It was 165 students last I checked, and I think we did 5 or 6 intakes last night alone. It's discouraging to feel like we double our capacity and still not serve everyone. I hate telling applicants about the waiting list - they always look sad and discouraged. Blah.

Funny thing that happened last night. . . A is learning to do intakes, and I was observing. M wandered over to chat. It wasn't a good time, really, because we were about to start the intake, but she stayed to watch. Only she must not have realized that we were doing an intake, or what that is, because as soon as A asked a question the applicant couldn't answer, M translated! It wasn't that big of deal - the student was very basic and we knew that - but we had to explain to M that she couldn't translate what is essentially a placement test. It was funny.

More about the girls tomorrow.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

And they didn't even make me go through customs!

In an effort to help Kate recruit teachers to fill all the empty slots at our school, I contacted an old instructor (who remembered me, yeah!) and asked her to send the job announcement to students and new graduates who fit the requirements. She was happy to help. Yesterday, I received an application - which right there tells you that she didn't read very carefully, because the instructions clearly indicated that inquiries and application materials were to be sent to Kate.

In her cover letter, she stated that she is majoring in Geography/Global Studies, with minors in TESOL and International Development. Ok, so far so good. Then she wrote, "I have studied abroad in Hawaii, Country A, Country B, and Foreign City A."

A geography major is claims to have studied abroad in Hawaii. Heck no.

Monday, September 01, 2008

My First Political Post

I just watched Barack Obama accept the nomination (I know, I'm late, I was at work when it happened and I forgot to record it on the DVR). He made big promises - to get out of Iraq, responsibly; to create five million new jobs; to reduce taxes for 95% of Americans; to end dependence on foreign oil in ten years; to invest 150 million dollars over ten years in clean energy. He addressed healthcare, education, the environment, and the economy. He was inspirational. He looked like a president, someone who could go abroad and not embarass my country. He sounded educated, but not entitled.

I don't know if he can deliver on everything he has promised. It sounds impossible: deliver everything you want, and at a lower price. It sounds too good to be true.

But I have to vote for him. I don't have a choice. McCain is too aggressive in foreign policy. He is too invested in the "trickle-down economics" idea to change. He doesn't know how many houses he owns. He is not the man I want to be president of my country.

So I'm taking a chance on Obama. It's like all the TV shows and movies where they're stuck on an island, and they can stay on the island and be safe, but miserable, until the coconuts run out or the pirates/Others/wild animals get them, or they can make a break for it. They can build a raft and strike out for the ocean, and they might die but it's better than being stuck on the island and doing nothing. Obama is the big gamble. Just like the escape in Castaway, where he plans as best he can, choosing the best time of year and the right tide, and builds the best raft possible, and then goes for broke. Because dying out on the ocean, and knowing you tried, is better than the safety and misery of the island.

In the movie, he gets rescued (although it's not exactly a happy ending). I don't need to be "rescued" but I need to take this chance, so I can tell my kids I tried, I had faith, I took risks.

(I know it's not a great analogy, but it's better than the first one I thought of, where I was mentally comparing voting to ordering in a restaurant, and McCain was the entree you know you can tolerate but don't love, and Obama is the exotic dish that looks great but might be awful. Cause, you know, somebody would be offended by that, and also, eating something so-so for four years would be better than eating something you hated for four years so it kind of comes out in McCain's favor, that one).

Election Day is Trea's fourth birthday. I didn't vote in the last one (I was busy giving birth). I will vote in this one.