Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Future - Or More Accurately, Thinking Too Much

School is right around the corner, as much as it pains me to write that. YES summer school is great, and I love teaching there, but since it's culmination directly correlates with a week of vacation followed by a week of professional development and then school starts, it is basically like school starts tomorrow. Or something.

Anyway, a bi-product of my rapidly depleting summer is an intense focus on what I will be doing *next* summer. I already have grandiose ideas about traveling the world, or more accurately (yea it's the second time I've used that now) going to some far-away land and staying there all summer, there are other options and perhaps other necessities.

Here are the thoughts running around, pellmell through my brain.
  • I could go teach at YES prep next year. This would be a minimum 2 year commitment. It would keep me in Houston. It would be an awesome teaching environment. I would be 27 when I could forseeably leave. I would continue to get summers off. Do I really want to stay in Houston for 2 more years? Is 4 years away from engineering too much? Which leads to...
  • I could go work at some engineering company. I could go anywhere to do this. There are some social activist type companies out on the west coast that make products specifically to combat injustice (like clean drinking water), and that would be cool. I could go to Seattle (which I love) and work for Boeing. But do I really want a corporate job again? Would my conscious let me go? I think I'd feel like I was selling out.
  • I could go to grad school for engineering. I think it would be great to be a professor, and always be learning and teaching in a subject that I like. I also like school, and am good at it. I always felt vaguely impatient at school though, as if I was waiting for real-life to start. Whatever.
  • I could go teach somewhere else entirely. I love the concept of the Big Picture company. That would be a 4 year commitment. I could go all over with those schools; they have schools in Detroit or Chicago or Portland or Denver. All of those would have benefits.
I was talking with a friend of mine today on the phone. She was telling me that I just need to figure out what I love and do that. I said I didn't feel like I was serving anybody if I did engineering or something like that. Her response was that if you don't love what you are doing you can't serve anybody anyway.

I think this is an interesting point. I am not sure if I love teaching. I am sure that I did not love corporate engineering. I could love teaching at YES prep. Who knows.

I guess the thing to do is to go sit on the beach and rock climb and run and swim and watch movies and cook great meals because those are the things I love doing.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

YES! Summer school!

Oh yea, summer school started today. I am teaching summer school at YES! prep, and I love it already. Even though I have no idea what is going on. And I didn't even have a lesson for today. And it is a billion degrees outside. And the following situation occurred:

student - "Mister, do we eat with the 7th graders?"
me - "Uh, I don't know."
student - "Mister, do we have to pay for lunch?"
me - "Uh, I don't know that either."
student - "Mister, can we sit anywhere we want at lunch?"
me - "Uh, I don't know that either. But I can find out the answers to all of your questions."
student - "Mister, you sure don't know what's going on."
me - "Uh huh."

Anyway, the first day went well. My kids were good, and we worked on a big math problem for the entire period. It was quite successful. Somehow, this math problem segued into the following exchange:

student - "Mister, would a pig spider freak you out?"
me - "'re asking if I would be freaked out by seeing a spider. That was a pig."
student - "Yea. A pig spider."
me - "Yep. That would definitely freak me out."

yea I have no idea. But it *would* be freaky.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Loose Ends 4 - Now I have a job

This whole 'unemployed teacher' situation actually worked itself out a couple of weeks ago, but I forgot to post it. I think that I wasn't too flustered about the whole situation so when it was resolved, it did not seem like that big of a change. I guess it was though. Maybe.

So here is the sequence of events:

In February I got the flu, and had a meeting where a bunch of bosses told me to shape up or find another job.

In March, my principal told me that Alief Middle School currently did not have room for me, but I wasn't being fired. Instead I was being put into a teacher pool. I need disinfectant.

In May, I left school and Texas under the impression that there was approximately a 5% chance of having a math job at AMS.

In the middle of June, the TFA placement coordinator called to tell me that "Alief no longer feels confident about placing you. You can now go wherever you want." She brought up an engineering position at an HISD middle school. I give her the green light to pass along my resume and stuff.

I get a call from the principal of the HISD middle school. Turns out the position is not engineering. It's eighth grade math. But it has one or two robotics electives tacked on. I do a phone interview. There is no further contact for 2 weeks.

I talk with TFA placement coordinator again. She tells me that YES prep has an opening. Would I be interested. "Hell yes!"

I get a call from YES prep. I talk. We talk. We keep talking. We try and set up a live interview. I was going to FLY DOWN for an interview. It cost too much. Principal asks for material to show my skills as a teacher. I email him a bunch of stuff.

We keep talking. He asks for a sample lesson. I remember I have a dvd of a lesson I gave in Feb (around there anyway). I think the dvd is on my desk. I have my roommate deliver it to YES prep. It is the wrong dvd. The dvd is actually an advertisement for YES prep. Ha.

We keep talking. He asks how confident I feel moving to high school. I tell him that after initial misgivings, I am totally psyched for the position. He tells me that we are going to have a couple more conversations and then he will get an offer formalized. "At this point I don't want either of us backing away from this, because this is the direction we want to go". The direction he means is hiring me.

The next day Alief Middle School calls. Apparently, the 7th grade teacher who thought she was staying decided she was leaving. My job is now available. If I want it. Dangit.

After debating, I decide that even though TFA specifically told me I do not have to take the job, and that my duty to Alief is done, I feel like I ought to go there. And I am excited too. Well, sort of. I call AMS and accept the job.

I call YES prep and give them the bad news. He is very understanding. He says that the "quick hiring has turned into a more long-term process". I smile. Looks like I might get to work at YES prep HS someday anyway.

Oh and guess what. The YES prep HS is the only school in Houston to be ranked on Newsweek's top 100 schools nationwide. It's number 37 or something.

Environmental Activism - Another Soapbox?

That questions is targeted at me. I wonder if I soapbox. Or rather if I soapbox too much. But then I realize that this is my blog and while readership (oooooh so snooty! I might have people who read this, but definitely no readership) is great, well, I'm talking here.

So anyway. I've loved the outdoors for a while now. My family went camping every summer since I can remember, and while I did not really take to the fishing aspects that well (they were kind of boring, and usually really hot), I loved the tent part and the playing part and the trees part and definitely the hammock part. My passion for the outdoors continued in Boy Scouts, where I eventually found myself doing "High Adventures" to places like the Adirondacks and Boundary Waters, and loving every minute of it. I now would describe myself as a backpacker, who aspires to be a rock climber, mountaineer, mountain biker, canoer and maybe kayaker (that's lowest on the list of priorities).

Thus, in the current debate about climate change, I have a vested interest: I want to continue to play outdoors. I can't say however, that I have done anything in particular to *be* an environmentally aware person. I mean this past year I started walking to the grocery occasionally, and using my backpack instead of grocery bags occasionally, and I rode my bike to church once, but that was because I wanted to ride a bike, so that doesn't really count. I have also carpooled somewhat frequently, but again that doesn't count because I did it to save on toll money. But I've wanted to recycle. And I've felt guilty for not.

So it was interesting when, as I sat in my last day of Curriculum Theory & Development class on Friday, one of the groups presented on recycling and called it "Solely a moral decision." I expected them to say it was a stewardship issue, or an ethical issue (as in 'you should recycle unless you have shoddy ethics'), but it wasn't. It was a personal moral issue. So they said. And their reasoning went something like this. First, there are hidden costs in recycling. More trucks come to pick it up. More roads break down because of the heavy trucks. More tires are wasted. More gas is consumed. Then the recycling begins. Well it might begin if someone wants the materials, otherwise it just gets shipped to the landfill anyway. But if someone wants it then the recycling begins. Well sort of. Because only parts of the material can be recycled. It is not a 100% yield enterprise. You don't get all of the material back as useful new stuff. There is waste. And to top it off, the process is very energy expensive. This means it burns more coal or whatever to power the transformation that doesn't even recycle *all* of the junk.

So, one *could* argue, that in the current environmental and ecological landscape, the ethical thing to do is trash everything. Well, everything that can't be composted. Everyone should have a compost pile. That *was* agreed upon.

The recycling bit was news to me. I hadn't really thought about it before. Although, it is somewhat incomplete, because processes only improve if there is an incentive to improve them. It is almost impossible for the process to improve if no one is recycling at all. So having recycling around might spur more efficient recycling centers. Hopefully. So that is a reason to recycle.

But that's not really the point. The point then, is that the other 2 "R"s of the 3Rs - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, are that much more important, and if you notice, they come first. So, as an individual, I can choose to purchase a huge tub of Gatorade powder instead of the 36 individually packaged Gatorade bottles because that reduces my waste. And then I can reuse the huge tub for...uh...something. Okay, I would still throw it away, but there would be less trash. The point is, people are starting to be environmentally conscious about food production (organic and whatnot) but the packaging is just overlooked.

Then, adding to all that, church today had the author of the book "Serve God, Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action". The author, J. M. Sleeth, talks about how conservation is a Biblical imperative and that every person can do their part to help preserve the world around us. Then there is the website for his organization, called "Serve God, Save the Planet." It has lots of information, from religious textual examinations to church statements to next steps. Here is a list of questions and hints that he provides concerning a lot of the things that an individual could do to help cut down on their own environmental impact.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Blah blah

My class has two days left.

It feels odd, sitting on the ending side of this thing, the class and even this first half of the summer, that the results could be so vastly different than my expectations.

I mean, I was coming to Michigan largely because I did not have anything 'better' to do; no one was willing to take me up on a grand adventure to the far reaches of imagination and travel. So I did not expect my time to be occupied with people that I will miss, and with thoughts that will change my teaching and relationships and life.

Next summer however, I am definitely leaving the country. So here is the open invitation: I am planning on doing a study abroad for all of June and July next summer. I want to go to a Spanish speaking country. If you are interested, let me know.

In other news, I am pumped for the return to Houston. My place is awesome and I am unabashedly planning on sleeping in my roommates huge bed while he's gone (I only have a twin).