Saturday, April 26, 2008

bait & switch

The new job was supposed to be easy -- second grade teacher's aide. That lasted a couple of weeks, then I got thrown the curveball of the one-one-one work, which was supposed to end today.

Today, of course, I hear my one-on-one kid is going back to his original classroom, and I'm going with him, and that class's aide will be moving into my classroom.

This is wrong on so many levels that I would be fully justified in quitting, but I'm not going to quit (at this point) for a bunch of reasons -- it's only till the end of the year (5 more weeks), and they need someone, and it's good to have steady money.

But, but, but... this isn't what I signed up for, not by a long shot. Being a general aide is easy work and I could leave at the end of the day without having anything too pressing weighing on my mind. One-one-one work is not like that, I find myself replaying various confrontations and thinking about what I could have done differently. It's psychologically draining on a level I haven't experienced in years, and I'm finding it impossible to get back into my schoolwork. (I'm hoping this otherwise-empty weekend will get me back in the groove.)

And another thing? The pay is horrifically bad. Substitute teaching money isn't great, but it's still better than teacher's aide money -- and one-on-one aides get paid at the same rate as regular aides. Now I'm off the table as far as subbing goes, which wasn't part of the original deal, either. I can earn in 3 days subbing what it takes 5 days to earn as an aide, but now I won't have that chance since they can't leave a one-on-one aide-less a couple of days per week.

I'm being taken advantage of, and I know it, and I'm allowing it to happen because they are stuck. What I need to do next week (there was no time at all, today), is meet with the appropriate administrators and tell them these things. I may ask for more money ("hazard pay") but will most likely be told there isn't any, to which I will reply: but what about the funds that were budgeted for the aide for my (original) class, which went unspent for at least 3 or 4 months? I may be able to work something, there.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Torchwood has wrapped for the season, and perhaps forever, as there is no word yet on whether there will even be a third season. This is a relief because I really need to get back to my school work.

It feels odd to have actual writing assignments that have nothing to do with 1) science fiction or 2) low carb cooking. I haven't written a low-carb column in about year. I was thinking about it today, wondering, what happened? It feels like one day I just stopped writing, but what really happened is that our computers were stolen, along with all my recipes and my ingredient and recipe databases that I had set up to calculate nutrition information. Apparently, it was too big a loss to overcome, and then other things happened, and it just fell away entirely.

I've been putting off my school work, what with DD's Confirmation and First Communion, and the accompanying houseguests, and my new job, and today, well, the DBacks game (a 9-4 trouncing by the Padres; oh well) and HBO's superlative John Adams. I'm running out of excuses, not to mention time, if I want to finish up these classes before we leave for the summer. I just have to do it.

It's going to take a bit of manning up to actually sit down and write up my "reflections" from my Educational Psychology readings. I'm asked to pinpoint three areas of my teaching ability that I feel need the most improvement, but reading over the expert vs novice teacher matrix, I already feel I'm in the "expert" category on most of them. (Most new teachers haven't lived with my kids; plus, I'm good at this stuff.) I'm sure I'll come up with something.

Torchwood 2.13: Exit Wounds

Given its ratings success, there's every indication that Torchwood will be returning for a third season. But writer-producer Chris Chibnall's superlative "Exit Wounds" is something unexpected: a wholly complete and satisfying episode that could just as easily serve as a series finale as a bridge to the third season.

This episode is one of the finest hours of television you're likely to see. Read the rest over at The House Next Door.

Friday, April 18, 2008

discernment, continued

Have I mentioned I have a new job? Until the end of the school year, I'm working as an aide in second grade, except when they need a substitute. The money for an aide is abysmal, but I do really enjoy being around the kids.

Last week, though, was my first week of two wherein I'm one-on-one with an (as yet undiagnosed) ADHD kid. He could give the Energizer Bunny a run for its money, but in terms of stubbornness and force of will, the kid's a piker compared to DS1 at that age.

In the course of the last week, I've managed to 1) get him to tie his own shoes 2) do all his morning work and 3) quit going to bathroom every single period. I tolerate a lot from him -- he pretty much has to move constantly -- but I don't allow him to disrespect me, and I do make him come back to wherever and try again if he runs in the halls. It all comes down to one thing: I mean what I say. That's the one thing he has to know and really believe about me -- so far, so good. We'll see how next week goes.

In the course of this past week I have received a lot of positive feedback from the rest of the staff. The teacher I'm working with has told me that I have a gift and that I should go into Special Ed instead of secondary. I feel very comfortable working with certain types of kids because I had my trial by fire with DS1, who nowadays is your typical brilliant 11-year-old.

I asked our Special Ed staff (I love them, they're fantastic) how they do it without having to go home and cry every day. It's one thing to work with bright kids with poor impulse control, the way I have been, it's another to work with kids that you know won't be able to progress at all. Even worse? The parents who either cannot or will not engage with their child and his abilities. It hurts to see parents who fundamentally misunderstand their own children, and with learning disabled kids, it's fairly common.

I told my mentor teacher I have no idea what I'm doing right now. I was struck today -- it's Friday, and I had to total my hours for the week -- by what a pittance I'm earning, but at the same time, I was so happy to go to work this morning. I subbed in DS2's first grade class and we had a great time, even though I missed my second graders a bit. I'm not doing this for the money, I'm doing it for the experience.

I'm doing good work. I tell the kids, and I've been telling my Religious Ed class all year, that to really feel good about yourself, you need to do good work. So I'm not surprised by how happy I'm feeling, but I feel a little bit like a freshman invited to the senior prom: I love being in second grade because that's where I am right now. If I were working in middle school, or high school, I'd probably feel the same way, right? Knowing me? Yes.

Maybe I'm wrong, I don't know. I need to vary my classroom experiences so I can gage what I can do long-term without burning out. Who knows where I'll end up. I just know I'll be in a school somewhere, hopefully earning a bit more than an aide's hourly wage.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Torchwood 2.12: Fragments

Chris Chibnall puts that old chestnut, your life flashing before your eyes just before you die, to good use in "Fragments," managing to avoid most of the clumsiness inherent in the typical origin story. It doesn't sit well that we're finally learning how Jack (John Barrowman) built his team just as it appears we're about to lose them all. "Fragments" is satisfying in that it answers many questions about our Torchwood Team, but ultimately it suffers from being nothing more than an extended setup for Chibnall's pull-out-the-stops season finale.

Read the rest over at The House Next Door.

Update: The episode's title has been corrected to "Fragments." Ross kindly pointed out that "Fractures" was a Farscape episode, so I didn't make up the other title out of whole cloth! What a week.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Funny, I didn't think it was something that could sneak up on you.

For a good part of my life, I've been thrashing around, trying to figure out what it is that I'm supposed to be doing. I've had jobs, and I had a career, and I'm having a great stint as a parent just now. I've dabbled with writing with some success, but I've come to realize my heart's not in it. I like it, but it's not something I want to spend all my time doing.

So after years of dithering, it really does come down to the most obvious thing, teaching. I find it fulfilling in ways that software development never approached. I don't think this sense is comparable to youthful enthusiasm, the kind that evaporates when it makes contact with reality. I'm not that young, and I have an understanding of the day-to-day grind that can comprise a lot of teaching.

But it doesn't have to be that way. I come away from my religious ed class on Monday nights with a tired voice but mentally recharged; it's the same way when I get home from the monthly thyroid cancer support meetings. This is good work.

Is it strange to find a vocation in my mid-forties? Better late than never.

Torchwood 2.11: Adrift

There are no aliens in Cardiff this week, but that shouldn't make us complacent. Series co-producer Chris Chibnall brings us back to Torchwood's bread and butter topic: the intersection of the human and the alien, and what it means to be human in the aftermath. Love and loss are common enough partners, but there's no trace of the maudlin here. The themes of hope and loss, two faces of love, are explored with heart-wrenching results.

Nearly brilliant, so close as to make no difference. Read the rest at The House Next Door.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

it's not a joke

Yes, I am attending a community college, aka a junior college, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

I'm learning, it's fun, and it's what I need to do to get my certification. People can be strangely snobby about things like this. Yes, I have an undergraduate degree from MIT, but it's not as if I think of it as M! I! T! No one else should, either.

Honestly, most of what I learned at the 'tute (which was MIT's nickname back in the early 1980s; in previous eras, it was called "Tech", and I have no idea what it's called now) was intellectually interesting but had very little practical application to my life. What I'm learning now, I've already put to good use in the classroom. I'm already a better teacher, and I'm already enjoying teaching even more than I did before.

One thing's for sure: no one walks around Rio's (admittedly tiny) campus wearing t-shirts proclaiming IHTFP. That kind of ironic disdain is the sort of luxury that elite school students can afford. The rest of us live in the real world.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

contemplating the past

Sometimes I think about things I did "in a previous life" -- before kids, before being married, while in school -- and I can't believe I did them. Some things I reject because I'd like to think I wasn't that naive or stupid. Some things I have trouble believing because it's hard to think that I was able to tough my way through, like biking three miles back and forth to school for two years, in all weather except falling snow -- and carrying my bike up to that third-floor walk-up apartment, once I got home.

It was just something I did, how I lived, but it's approaching almost mythic status, some kind of story I tell myself about my past. But it's not just a story, it's real. I wonder if a day will come when I stop believing it myself.

(Inspired by Nina.)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

whew (#37)

Gone, gone, gone: Dysplastic nevus removed on 3/26/2008 via 3mm punch biopsy.

I've had so many skin biopsies that it surprises me that I still get upset when I get a message from the dermatologist's office, asking me to call back for the results.

Approximately 20 minutes elapsed from when I got the message until I could call back, and in that time I felt as if my heart was going to leap out of my chest. There's a jumble of hopes: it's benign; if it's not benign, they got it all; if they have to re-excise, they won't have to cut too much... (I'd like to be able to say there's no reason at all to worry, but I can't, even though the vast majority of my biopsies have come back just fine.)

I called. The shoulder biopsy was benign, and the leg biopsy was, as expected, a dysplastic nevus. Since I was diagnosed with Atypical Mole Syndrome several years ago, that wasn't a surprise. Happily, the margins were clean -- he got it all, so I don't need to go under the knife again.

Now if only I could calm down as quickly as I can spin myself up.

Torchwood 2.10: From Out of the Rain

"From Out of the Rain" was so reminiscent of Season One's "Small Worlds" that it came as no surprise that it, too, was written by Peter Hammond. Like Hammond's inaugural episode, "From Out of the Rain" is atmospheric and creepy, and reaches back into history both personal and cultural. But where "Small Worlds" grappled with a well-known archetype, here we're dealing with something almost unrecognizable: a traveling sideshow that appears out of nowhere to abduct and murder. It was OK that we never got much of an explanation about the fairy elementals, but it's frustrating here that we never learn anything about the creatures that terrorize Cardiff. Well, not quite; even worse than the lack explanation is the curious lack of menace. "Small Worlds" worked, in part, because we knew that the elementals had the power to destroy everything. Both urgency and momentum are lacking, here; without that existential threat, there's little to engage beyond nostalgia.

Click here to read the rest at the House Next Door.