A space to reflect on my readings and musings, scattered and rescattered



Scanning. My school building got scanned for "electronics/technology" today. My principal waved me toward the staff entrance as I was walking in. I asked if I could instead enter through the student entrance. He shook his head no; I had to go in the "special" entrance, the one that was staffed by only one school safety officer, the one without metal detectors, the one where I wasn't treated like a criminal. Instead I walked in the staff entrance with my cell phone in my pocket without anyone taking even a glance in my direction; apparently I didn't "look" like a security threat. I spent my first period class simply observing the spectacle taking place in the lobby of my building. Did my best to interview the one officer who would talk with me to find out how this works in the overall system.

I'd noticed the effects of the scanning before I even got to school. I was sitting in the back of the B75 bus with 3 high school students--from my building but not my school. They had gotten word of the scanning via their cell phones. As the bus passed by the subway station most students in our building use, we looked at the window to see the hoards of students getting on the train, not off of it. The students on the bus said, "Look, everyone's just going home." They recognized peers getting back on the train and heading home. Attendance was low. Spirits were down. I'd expected it since last night when I got the note from my principal. I'm still wading through the data I collected this morning as I stood in the lobby during my planning period to watch the searches.

Here are some initial thoughts/details that stick out:

*There were about 40 officers on duty; the same 40 go from school to school and do this every day. School administration must support the set-up of the detectors and manage the confiscation and return of the technology. We had several additional staff away from their posts and in the lobby dealing with the show.

*I was told that the purpose of the scanning is "safety"--to find guns/knives, but I only noticed attention to technology. Ahh, safety theater. My favorite moment was watching one kid get pushed into the "doesn't have tech" line and walk upstairs with his headphones hanging out of his pocket. Not one officer noticed. Must have been my ethnographer's eye...

*One officer's role was to keep a tally of the number of ipods, phones, MP3 players, and other items (like glass bottles) that were confiscated. Wish I had that count.

*School administrators and guests were talking on their cell phones while collecting student cell phones. (Thankfully, they weren't from my school.)

*By about 9:40am, our school had filled a medium sized storage bin with name-labeled technology in plastic baggies and was moving on to the next bin. Our office manager was making her way through a book of claim receipts for the technology collected.

*The entire lobby erupted in laughter over a cell phone sandwich--one student's attempt at hanging on to her technology. A few of my girls told me they tried to get their technology in by putting it down their pants. That didn't work either.

*Some people in my school were excited because of the searching because it would mean at least one day without text messaging in their classes.

*Report from student: "A lot of people still got through with technology. Some girls put their cell phones in their bras and said it was the underwire. I had my cell phone and ipod in my bag and they only found my cell phone." There were 5 other students who she knew of who had made it through the detectors with their technology; I'm sure there were more.

More later...


Salseras de Mi Corazon: GREEN ME

An unassailably rough week. Not much went as planned, hoped, or expected and it was painful just to keep stepping though the days. Nothing dramatic, just a long week for us students and teachers in NYC...we're ALL ready for April break. All I felt was pure, undeniable exhaustion. I spent the majority of my Saturday dillydallying around my apartment, doing almost nothing. By evening, I was stir crazy and glad to get out and check out O's dance team.

Oh my, there are parts in the choreography of the song where I have to dip all the way back and drop my head. I had meant to stretch for 20 mins. before class and didn't, especially since the stress of my week had left me stiff and crackly. Wish I had stretched. My body didn't want to do everything asked, because the steps called for a flexibility I don't usually need in my regular group classes. Nonetheless, my dance partner for the night very sweetly and compassionately taught me complicated moves to, I don't know, 15-20 seconds of the song! I coveted his "mejor" and "mucho mejor" and the one or two exclamations of "perfecto." Validation. Teacher approval. I need it so much when I'm putting myself out there like this. I constantly need feedback, validation, and the safety to make mistakes. O also made fun of my attempts to work on my Spanish with my partner. He's a small soft spoken Guatemalan guy who would ever so gently correct and give me additional hand signals to keep my feet, arms, head and body going in the right direction.

My comfort zone was pressed, which is likely why I learned so much. Some parts of the choreographed dance felt familiar (a smidge) and those I loved because I didn't feel silly. When we got to the body roll though, I sort of wanted to run away. My curvy little teacher demonstrated and then instructed, "Head, chest, stomach...then pull back like you've been punched in the stomach." I couldn't imagine what the roll was supposed to look like on my frame. I still look like a comic frog stretching its neck out. A little Kermit-like if that comparison works for you. You can also imagine the little Gieco gecko trying to dance super smooth if that works for you. I felt gawky and awkward and green. Newbie. After a valiant effort that felt fruitless, I insisted on moving beyond the body roll and promised to practice in the mirrors I've hung up in my bedroom at home solely for this purpose--trying out the moves in a space where I feel safe enough to look as gangly as a angular little green critter with a funny voice.

[For more on my dancing adventures check out Salseras de Mi Corazon--the blog where I'm gonna try to locate all of my salsa stuff. This blog is getting a little scattered and rescattered, which is making it feel unfocused, even though part of me thinks that's fine for a blog. Yes, still trying to figure out what I think of this whole blogging genre and how I want to use it.]


Cafe y Guatemala

One of my lovely students brought me some coffee from Starbucks, just because. He can because he works there, but mostly, just because. Anyway, he asked what I liked in terms of coffee and these were my only 2 specifications: medium-bodied, french press grind. Here's what he brought me: Casi Cielo (trans. Almost Heaven). I was already smiling and enjoying my coffee and his nice note on my One-A-Day Spanish Calendar when I realized that I was drinking Guatemalan coffee--and no less, coffee from the highlands near Antigua. Ahhh, memories.

One of my favorite parts of my trip to Guatemala last summer was my trip to Finco la Azotea, a coffee farm and museum in Jocotenango. It was a bumpy ride to the farm--my first trip on a local bus (or chicken bus). And at the museum I had the good fortune of attaining a private tour in slow, careful Spanish with a kind teenage boy, who spent an hour explaining the coffee production process on the farm and letting me taste the sweetness of a fresh-picked coffee bean. That trip was not only an education on coffee in Guatemala, but it marked the precise moment that I had begun really working hard on relearning and improving my Spanish. It was like a private language lesson only with much better surroundings--a walk around a coffee farm!

So it feels like it all came full circle when my coffee-gifting student asked if I was working on my Spanish and offered to help me with any phrases if I needed support.


Lil' DJ

first birthday. fat baby, skinny momma.

cake or death? um, cake... death to cake!

always preferred trikes to bikes.

oh the red bikini. how i've heard the stories.

Beloved 12th graders: If you have not given me your photos yet (and you have access to some), you are dead meat. I just taught my mom how to use a scanner tonight to get these.


I'm not dizzy but my head is spinning...

Before I forget, let me tell you about my super freaking awesome day yesterday. What did it involve? Oh, yes, the obvious. Salsa! My Sunday's are neighborhood-based loveliness in my sweet little dance studio that is by week an actual hair salon. I started taking a private salsa class at 11:00am on Sundays, because I felt like I wasn't progressing in a few areas during my group class. Some things are hard to get right when you're only dance partners are friends who are learning to dance themselves. So an hour to dance with the instructor (whose prices are insanely low) has seemed like a good investment. And it's paying off. I am learning to spin like, I dunno, like a top. It's mad cool. I think she spun me at least 5 times in a row yesterday though it might have been more--it was a little blurry. Sometimes I like to kid myself that the whole spinning in salsa thing is like fighter pilot training, because I am less and less prone to getting dizzy. This is a huge benefit when you come from an ilk of women with vertigo (inner ear-related dizziness issues). Not sexy, I know. But mad cool to be fighting off the dizzy bug.

Anyway, I'm gaining some confidence in this dance thing. This doesn't mean that I don't mess up on a regular basis. Believe me, I do. It just means that I am gaining some speed and grace. I am also learning to "follow," a word I still shy away from given my feminist predilections. Nonetheless, following is a tough skill. To learn subtle signals--signals that are given in ways I'm not used to reading and responding to in quite such structured ways. A glance. A hand on my shoulder or raised in the air or on the small of my back. A "whip" signal in one direction or another that somehow says "spin" and barely leads the spinning. A foot moved forward to pull me into step after a dizzying triple spin. A forearm on the neck to tell me to duck. It's beautiful and amazing. To attain fluidity while improvising--or more accurately, following someone else's improvising--is pretty freaking cool.

I offer this "progress note" on my salsa obsession because something mad cool happened on Sunday. In the middle of our dance class together Omaira (my instructor) asked me if I had any interest in joining her dance team. I guess she's been leading up to it for a couple of weeks now, because she's been passing along compliments from others about "how much I'm improving." Yet those praises have at times been tied to "back when you used to trip over your feet" so I didn't think too much of them. Also I shy away from compliments on things like this, as we know. I just giggled and thought "okay, so I don't completely suck anymore." I'd also noticed that I was happy to dance with some guys [from her crew] who are far better than me and not freak out. I just danced and, when I messed up, we laughed, kept going and tried the turn pattern again. There have been a few other changes that are not so subtle. Like I yell back (even more aggressively) at my learning friend who likes to "correct mistakes" and tells me kind of obnoxiously when I've done something wrong. I say, "let's try it again" and "it would help if YOU did this to LEAD ME BETTER." I'm not bitter, really.

I feel like this blog is all over the place but it's merely a draft, I suppose. I have to finish documenting the dance team story, if only for myself. I didn't immediately accept Omaira's invitation--even though I'd been secretly coveting one for weeks--as I was afraid I wouldn't be in town for all of the performances over the summer. I'm hoping to be in Central America (where they dance salsa On1 not On2) for most of it. Mind you, these are just student performances meant to promote her studio. Nonetheless, I didn't want her to invest in training me and let her down. By the end of our group class together later that day, she'd decided that my travel plans wouldn't interfere too much and that I should join.


So apparently I lied. My students and I are not talking about blogs and how to somehow imbue them with more meaning on this happy happy Monday because it is a SNOW DAY. I wished and hoped and (along with students and colleagues across this city) willed the snow goddesses to give us a snow day. We got it. And I'm soooo happy. I made myself stay up this morning after a lovely student's text message woke me up to confirm that there was, in fact, "no school." Text message confirmation. Gmail chat exclamations with colleagues digitally confirming, cheering and celebrating. Fabulous. The NYC DOE actually canceled school. Unbelievably cool.

So what am I doing with the day? Well, even though a colleague extolled us on Facebook to "hit the park, hit the slopes, hit the bed..." I've been fighting sleep like nobody's business. If only I can deny the carnal urge to sleep on this blessed day, I, my dear friends, have a dissertation to write! And so far, I'm winning the battle against the bed, though I must confess the carrot for my writing work: a morning nap.


Words on Blogging

Hey there ducklings,

I guess I like to post when I'm happy though I'm a bit ashamed of my absence in the blogosphere. A student texted this message yesterday:

Heyy Ms D...iits [name]..How was ure weekend?..ii wanted to ask u..are we still doing blogs..bcuz no one are doin them.and iim not either && ii dont wanna faiil ure class..

My response:

LOL. We'll talk about them tomorrow. I know folks are blogging. Me either. ;) we'll keep blogging but maybe in a different way. Xoxo

Of course, she expressed relief though I felt a pang of guilt both for not blogging personally and for not talking about blogs in class for the last few weeks. Our blogs have been on my mind. I've been reading and commenting on them (and noticing that the number of posts has been dwindling). I've also thinking about how writing needs a "purpose" and blogs are no different. This is part of why I've held my tongue and the state of our blogosphere. The writing we do on here has to be valuable in some way...or else why do it? For the first semester, I believed that "blogging as flexing our writing muscles" was enough. I think the workout metaphor is valid, but I no longer think it's "enough."

Now I'm off to binge blogging because I have so much to say.