Monday, September 24, 2007


Long school days leave me exhausted with not much left at the end of the day. All I want to do is listen to some music or veg out on the couch, it makes it difficult to get school things done in the evening.

In other news, yesterday, I went surfing with a friend in a new spot here in Santa Cruz and I was surprised to find a much kinder, less-competitive crowd at this spot. I had a good time even though the good waves were few and far between.

Something that had bothered me about Santa Cruz over the last year has been the intensity of some Santa Cruz people, but specifically Santa Cruz surfers. There are a number of surf spots in town in which older surfers will heckle inexperienced surfers, put them down and even attempt to fight in the water. It was one of the biggest surprises i found moving here.

I always thought that surfers were generally a chilled out, mellow balanced group of people, but I've found that the contrary is true here at the popular spots. People are intense, competitive and generally mean. I don't know where this mean-ness comes from but I suspect part of it is a phenomenon that comes from growing up in the shadow of a tourist community, where people come and go all the time.

I see this same strange intensity in some of my students and I've brushed it off as normal teen angst, but I think that there may be something more, some hidden piece of aggression that comes from living in a place like this.

I'm always trying to find them out a little more, and I'm sick of surfers raining on my parade.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Winds of Autumn

This afternoon I was sitting on my couch as the wind battered my avocado plant against the window. These chilly winds made me feel as if fall is making its way into our lives again. For me, its so clear and refreshing when fall returns; summer is wonderful, but fall seems more real.

I Have almost made it through a month of teaching and it seems to have flown by. Daily, I am challenged by my students but I am beginning to find rhythm and balance in my job and life. It feels really good. I can't say that my teaching gig is great, but its certainly not terrible.

Fall Wind by Jean Lester

I find that there are specific groups of students who have decided that it is their job to argue with me and challenge my authority as a teacher. I am trying my best to not let them do that, to differ their energy in other ways, even if that means sending them out of the classroom. I am definitely not always good at that, I take their emotional beatings much more than I should, but I also want to support their growth and gain their trust, its just damn hard.

I was riding home with another teacher for about a week and we talked about how the job is good, but its rewards are very few and far between. sometimes the rewards seem non-existent. I just wish I could show my students how lucky they are to have teachers that care about them and put up with their angst and frustration. I don't think that many youth are aware of their privilege--but many adults aren't either.

I haven't been taking work home this year and its giving me a little more time to live, which is peaceful and wonderful. I went to the SC farmers market tonight and got some vegetables for dinner and it was quite pleasant. I now plan on finishing my book and listening to the new Wilco Album.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

simple eloquence

One of my favorite authors, Sherman Alexie was in town last night. And he completely rocked.

If you don't know who he is, then you should. He is a prominent Native American author who has written some amazing books, but he might be best known for writing the screenplay for Smoke Signals.

I am having some of my students read one of his more recent books called Flight. Its about a half Native American foster child dealing with his own reality and his past.

He is know for his frankness about oppression of Native Americans and he deals with many disparaging stereotypes like alcoholism and casinos with humor and satire. He was no different at Bookshop Santa Cruz.

He started by making fun of Santa Cruz in a light-hearted manner. He talked about how its the only place you can find street performers offering tarot cards for money. He then said that he has some issues with the fact that his predominant audience is college educated white women, there was uncomfortable laughter when we all looked around.

He came back around to say that without capitalism, brown people, minorities would not be succeeding in the arts and that it is one of the powerful tools against oppression.

He was abruptly frank with the audience but in a very loving way. I have to say I was very nervous to talk to him, but he was very kid to me.

I have heard about past experiences where he will not come to a place to talk, unless he gets to work with the native community, and looking around the room at the bookstore, I realized that Santa Cruz doesn't have a very strong Native Community.

Here is one of his poems:


Buffalo Bill opens a pawn shop on the reservation
right across the border from the liquor store
and he stays open 24 hours a day,7 days a week

and the Indians come running in with jewelry
television sets, a VCR, a full-lenght beaded buckskin outfit
it took Inez Muse 12 years to finish. Buffalo Bill

takes everything the Indians have to offer, keeps it
all catalogues and filed in a storage room. The Indians
pawn their hands, saving the thumbs for last, they pawn

their skeletons, falling endlessly from the skin
and when the last Indian has pawned everything
but his heart, Buffalo Bill takes that for twenty bucks

closes up the pawn shop, paints a new sign over the old
charges the Indians five bucks a head to enter.

Sherman Alexie

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Portland, OR

a Wind Swept Street,
Walk hand in hand

a restless vagabond
a peaceful warrior

tangled in fortune

In different places,
So much the same.

an artisans cart
illuminated by the sun
through circus umbrellas
rolls softly into the evening
as the street fair winds to a stop

suddenly chanting merchants
belt out an east African soliloquy
while passing shoppers accord an unimposing brief grin

and evenings sun dances through Belmont street
in a lovers tangle with the late summer winds

and the two
continue to walk hand in hand
by a fleeting moment.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Not Poetry

After almost completing two weeks of school, I feel as if I've already been working for a month. It's amazing how quickly everything swings back into motion:


I was greeted on the first day with an unavoidable need to argue and completely disrespect me as a teacher. I was a bit disgruntled because I came back with such a positive attitude, and they came back with their fists raised (not in a form of solidarity, but ready to spar)

I am reminded by the New teacher project that I must focus on the positives and the accomplishments so far. Well, the students are excited about reading, they are totally enthralled with the drug and alcohol drenched memoir of Noah Levine, Dharma Punx. It makes me excited that students are so excited about a book. I just hope they are able to dig deep enough to get the true messages of redemption and self integrity woven into the narrative.

We have a new teacher who is very excited to collaborate and work on creating a backpacking/outdoor club with me, which I have wanted to do for awhile.

I started the New Teacher Project today and will be able to share ideas with other teachers from around the county.

The new students have a much deeper understanding of respect and have been absolutely positive in their interactions with me.

So really, things aren't all that bad. There is potential for greatness this year.