Monday, May 6, 2013

Journal Bits: Palmdale Trip, ECE, Tutoring, Spanish, Cowgirl


"If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer...
If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!"

From Where the Sidewalk Ends: The Poems and Drawings of Shel Silverstein

A large smiley face carved into the hill, or rather mowed into the hill, began our weekend trip to Palmdale last weekend to celebrate M's uncle's 70th birthday. That was a nice way to start the trip. If my eyes didn't scan at every moment, I might have missed it. I pointed it out to M; he said to show his dad. I had to think fast in Spanish and barely got the word out for face as we passed by, but I did manage to string the words together in time for him to see.

The highway we would be on for a great part of our five hour trip is known for putting people to sleep–or almost. It's a long stretch on Highway 5 toward Los Angeles. Mostly pale, bare hills on either side of the freeway. My eyes grew heavy. When I closed them momentarily, I feel a tickle in my tummy because of the sensations that my body feels and hears; with my eyes closed, the sensations are heightened, as the van vibrates, the hum of wheels spin me to a jubilant place; the hot breeze blows through, as though touching every follicle on my arms and face. When I open my eyes, I feel a natural drunkenness, and I savor the moment.

I see a small quarry, rocks spilling out into mounds. I'm intrigued by all the different pulleys and hoists. It makes me want to go play in the dirt and roll around in the mounds.

There are many big rig trucks on the road delivering goods and food, gasoline–all the things we use on a daily basis. How easy it is to forget they have a long journey before they reach our tables and cars.

At one point, I begin to doodle small things that I see.

As we get closer to our destination, I try to observe what I see in my limited Spanish and I jot these thoughts down in my notebook:

Mis ojos ven a infinidad y atras
Los pajaritos hacen casitas debajo de el camino.
Hay mucho tierra seca y una vaca solo.
Los caballos son como magico con ojos que
son tan grandes y tienen tanta alma y compasion.
El aire esta caliente; mi voca tan seca. Agua no me refresca.
Quiero tomar y tomar.

(I tried to go back and catch errors, but there are probably others I didn't catch. I'll have to come back to this later. A good exercise for practicing and looking up the errors I can identify.)

My eyes see as far as infinity and back.
The little birds make houses underneath the road.
There is a lot of dry dirt and one lone cow.
The horses are like magic with eyes that
are so large, and they have so much soul and compassion.
The air is hot; my mouth so dry. Water does not quench my thirst.
I want to drink and drink.


The party had a cowboy theme It was fun. I've always wanted a pair of cowgirl boots and happened to find a used pair–not authentic–but cute in an antique store. I also found a pair of jeans and a pink cowgirl hat.


Some old fears came up for me last week in my ECE class. I knew we would have a project to do and then we would have to present it. Even though I've gone through public speaking and I knew this would be informal–that we would go in two groups, set up around the classroom with our posters, as classmates made their rounds to listen to our presentations in that way, I was still nervous. Would mine be good enough? I had old fears of fleeing and of quitting, but these thoughts quickly dissolved and I focused on the task at hand. I thought a lot about my poster and the activities before I actually started getting down to work.

We were to come up with two activities related to math and literacy for the child that we observed a few weeks back, keeping in mind Howard Gardeners' Multiple Intelligences and then tailoring the activities to the intelligences that we observed in the child. I wanted to get my presentation over so I went in the first group. It was actually fun and I felt comfortable speaking to groups of three and four and sometimes one at a time with my poster as a point of reference, along with the items I brought for both activities and photos I took that demonstrated how the activity would play out. The teacher also made a visit to each student's setup; I was pleased when it seemed I had done alright.

I signed up for the summer session of the next ECE course I will take. I know it's going to be rigorous cramming so much information into a month, but I feel ready.


Two tutoring session ago, there was a mini mixup. The student I usually tutor after break was taken by another tutor. She was going on vacation and wanted to tutor her student, but she was tutoring him on the day I usually do, so I ended up tutoring one of her students. Anyway, the student she took was the curious one with lots of questions. As I walked to go get him, there he was with her. The student and I both sort of looked at each other like something was amiss.

When I met with him the following week, he asked me about it and I told him that, yes, I usually tutor him on that day, but that she was going on vacation and that's why I didn't tutor him that week.

We got down to reading and he lost a tooth, so he asked me if I believed in the tooth fairy. And I said, "Oh, yes, I sure do." I asked him if the tooth fairy came and he said there wasn't anything there in the morning, but that later that afternoon, there was something under his pillow. I smiled and said, "She must have been busy during the night." Later in our reading session, Santa Claus came up because, by sight, he was having trouble with the word, "Oh." Then he said those two letters also said "Ho." And I said, "Yes, like when Santa says, "Ho, Ho, Ho." I told him that he could remember that Ho and Oh, sound alike and the letters have switched places. When we got to the word "Oh" in reading again, he looked to me and I made the Oh with my mouth without sound, and he got it. So he also asked me if I believe in Santa Claus and I told him I did. He wanted to be sure, so he asked again.

When I was his age, I did believe in the tooth fairy and Santa Claus as very real, and now I believe in the belief to believe–if that makes any sense. As humans, we need to believe in something; and as we journey through life, those beliefs may change, but at the core, I think it's the same. We need to believe in something greater than ourselves and also in the little things.

My adult self believes in the sprit of all that we need to believe in as children. I was glad to see that he still has that childhood innocence in tact.

One more note that I thought was interesting is that there was another person working in the library with us. She was a reading intervention staff member and had a small group of children. He said that she would give the students books to take home. I try to carry a few books that I can give to the students and I happened to have one that caught his attention. It was a Curious George book. I told him that this was one he could take home if he likes. He seemed happy about it. I told him that it would be great if he read it and brought it next time and told me all about it and what he liked about the story.

He also told me that the staff member sitting behind us yelled at the students sometimes. I am glad to know and acknowledge that, when working with children, one of my virtues is patience and offering a safe place to learn. I'm not super outgoing and have a pretty calm energy and can still be shy, but as a teacher that I happened to meet by chance at a small fair this past weekend said, "It takes all types to be a teacher." I believe her.

One of the other students is really struggling and I try to think to myself, what can I do?Some of the books that the teacher gives us are too difficult for him. Some are about right, but others are not. When I'm in thrift stores, I usually scan the children's books for myself and also with M's God son in mind, as well as the students I tutor. I happened to come across an easy book with the name of this particular struggling student. He tries really hard and he is such a sweet person. I wondered what it would be like for him to read a story about a character with his own name. When I sat with him, we first read a story from the book the teacher gave us to read. Then I told him that I had a book that he might like, that it was on the easier side and that one of the characters had his name. I asked him if he would like to read it and told him that he could keep the book when we were done. He nodded his head yes that he would like to read the book. I had a pack of flash cards with me and brought out the "Ch" card because one of the other character's names started with that sound.

I was pleasantly surprised. He did well with a few sight words and remembered words that he would often forget after reading them on the previous page. When he finished I told him that he did a good job and he could take the book home to practice. I usually walk the students back to class, which in this case is only two doors away, but he got up and walked in a hurried walk, holding his book, leaving me there, somewhat taken aback. I wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. I decided that it was a good thing and that he felt good for reading most of the small book by himself.

While I had been waiting in the library for recess to end, I looked at the books to my right and spotted the Shel Silverstein books. I had a best friend in 3rd grade that carried Where the Sidewalk Ends around with her. I never looked inside, but I always remembered the book. My mother tried to surround me with books, but I don't remember Silverstein's books. I wanted to check out a copy of A Light in the Attic. Instead while I was browsing in the used bookstore I found my own copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends and many other children's books and a few books about books.

I'm looking forward to seeing the new movie adaptation of The Great Gatsby and decided to re-read the book yesterday. It was great to read it for pure pleasure. What a gorgeously written book.

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