Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Subbing in Austin Days 1-5

As of tomorrow I will have completed my fifth sub job all of which (for some strange reason) will have been for Special Ed teachers or P.E. coaches (basketball and dance). Weird. Never have I ever subbed for either of these positions before but all of a sudden that's all I'm getting down here. My first day as a Special Ed English teacher went great with only one minor upset. The absent teacher was still in the building attending a conference and so would poke his head in every hour just to check on me and the students. However, when he did this in his second hour class, one of the students, angry that I wouldn't turn off the light during the movie they were watching, cried out "She's a B!" At this point he stood up and shoved his desk forward, "She's a B!, a B!" Well, needless to say, the teacher pulled the student out in the hall and the other students gasped. One girl sitting near me say, "Aww, did you hear that Miss? He called you a bitch! I wouldn't take that from him if I was you; I'd kiss his ass!" Well, I obviously didn't kick his ass, but rather took it in stride as I've certainly been called worse. The student returned to class, silent and well behaved after his teacher calmed him down and threatened to send him to the office. The teacher was very apologetic, but I assured him that if that was the worse thing that happened today, I would count it as a good day at school.

My second day was less eventful as I never had more than two students in my class at once. This type of class was designed for students who had been kicked out of their normal classes and so came to my room for a designated amount of time in which they could do their normal class work and hopefully prove themselves obedient enough to return to their regular classroom. I had a TA (teacher's assistant) for every class so very little was required of me. Nevertheless, I tried to help the students with their homework. However, when trying to help one student write a resume and after asking him to change his desired employment from strip club manager to restaurant manager, and then having him refuse to do any of the rest of the work for the resume besides write down the job he intended to apply for; and after asking a second student what his homework was, have him turn to a random page in his book, point to a paragraph and saying "that," and after calling his bluff and then having him turn to a different page one hundred or so pages away from the first one and pointing to another random paragraph and saying "that," I gave up. I went back to checking Subfinder on the web for an available job the next day.

This third teaching job in special ed was as a TA for students with severe mental and physical disabilities. I'm not exactly sure of the PC term for this, I know "handicapped" is taboo, so please forgive me if "disabilities" is taboo too, I mean no ill intent, I just lack knowledge. This was by far the most rewarding experience of the three. I played children's monopoly, worked on the alphabet and words, colored and drew, and sang with the teenagers. One boy with downs syndrome took to me, and when I left the classroom 6th period to help antoher teacher, he gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. He had a book that played each instrument's different sound and songs, and was delighted when I sang "Take Me Out to the Ballfield" along with the trumpet. One girl, Monique, couldn't speak, but sure could color even with her two small, crinkled hands. I loved watching her fill in her haunted houses and scary spiders with the bright colored pencils. Her diligence at cutting out the finished picture with two hands that don't work as well as mine (or probably yours either) was inspiring. She loved was she was doing, and didn't mind at all that my hand's or her teacher's worked twice as fast. She was a delightful girl, positive and silly, even when her classmates would get mad or throw temper tantrums. It was a great day, and I'm happy to announce that I'll be returning there tomorrow. The woman in charge of substitutes came in at lunch to ask if I could return on Wednesday to which I obviously responded, "Of course!"

So tomorrow starts day four in Special Education, day two in "life skills," the class I enjoyed the most. As for the P.E. classes, I could certainly do without. There's no teacher/student interaction other than, "Play basketball" or "dance or I'll write you up." I will say though that when I told the basketball students of Lanier High School to play nicely, one boy responded, "Miss, we from the hood, we don't play nicely."

And there you have it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

An Email Exchange

So I received a forward from my former youth minister asking my thoughts in response to it. the email contained multiple juxtipositions between bush and kerry from a "christian" perspective with regard to their politics. lots of stuff about abortion and homosexuals. i found the email disturbing for several reasons. i spent a good hour thinking over it and writing him back with my response. thought i might offer it up here too . . .

first of all, i think christians should prioritize on what the issues of importance are. secondly, i think they should consider the type of country we live in, thirdly, they need to re-evaluate what type of christians they need to be.

that said . . .

1. the issues of importance: gay marriage seemed to be big on whoever's list this is. i have my own opinion about gay marriage, but either way, it is not on my list of top five reasons to vote for a president. for that matter, neither is abortion. my reasons for this are biblical, legistical and compassion oriented. the word "homosexual" in the hebrew and greek is only actually used 6 times in the whole bible. the idea of "homosexual" is only mentioned a handful of times more than that. however, loving our neighbor, providing for widows, orphans and the poor, standing up for the oppressed, getting along with our enemies, are discussed explicitely and extensively more times than i care to sit down and count. not to mention, we don't know what the bible would have said to homosexuality that wasn't old men sexually oppressing young boys and being pornographic (as was the case at that time), but was two adults wanting to engage in a monogomous relationship. with abortion, personnally, i think its wrong (as does John Kerry - obviously since he's a catholic and catholics hate abortion, they even reject birth control, they're so fundamental with that), but i don't think that it's right to make abortions illegal in america. partial birth abortions? yes. illegal. and repulsive. but other abortions? i don't think so. what would you have done if shannon found out that either boston or will's bodies were being created minus a brain? minus a face? amy's sister in law tamara has a friend who was a new parent (with her husband) whose unborn child was diagnosed with this disease that only allowed half of his body to develop (the brain was on the non-developmental half). it would die without its brain in the womb (because the brain tells the body to breathe, blink, grow, etc.). so do you have the abortion now, or let the woman continue to have the baby(is it a baby?) grow within her only to die once the babies functions shut down? do you make her body wait nine months with a dead baby in it before she gives birth? no, obviously. not to mention that i'm not sure how ethical it is to make abortions illegal and force women (and children) into back alley abortions or coat hanger mothers. is it more ethical to close our eyes and pretend it won't happen? to lose mothers to death this way too? plus, people who push the abortion issue really get to me. if abortion is such a big deal, why aren't they adopting children? are they active in pushing options for high school pregnant girls? are they involved in a mentoring program? are they volunteering at orphanages? giving money to education of women's choices regarding adoption? becoming foster parents, etc.? if you're gonna talk the talk and make abortion the number one issue, you better be walking the walk.
so if what the bible says is important is different than this (or at least greatly leaning on other issues) then what is important? i'd say war is a big one. the treating of our enemies and the treatment of our own people who disagree with the government (our own free americans), is big. is a war just when our president has lied about numerous issues? is it just to go to war with a country that oppresses its people, hates america, but sits on a big fat pocket of oil, but not go to war with a country that oppresses more people, kills more of its own citizens, but doesn't have any oil to give america? is the killing of innocent civilians over a war that we're not even sure is legitimate right? is it right to act in the world as if we are the know it alls of everything? we had a pack in the UN to not ever drop nuclear weapons on a country that has none. bush broke that rule. is that right? what about poverty in america and abroad? is is right to give tax breaks to the rich when middle-class and poor americans are suffering? what about education? is it right to not make this a priority when black students in the ghetto don't even get a chance to learn half the things a white kid in suburbia does? that they are born into a system that is hard if not impossible to escape - a sytstem of poverty, violence and biased education? is it "christian" for a president to lie to a country? the pentagon papers exposed vietnam and lots of people have started talking, exposing the bogus nature of this war too.

2. We live in America, a country that is founded on free rights for everyone. I love this. I hate it though when people call us a christian nation. We are not a christian nation and perhaps shouldn't be. I know the conservative christians are gasping now, but hear me out. Christian nations don't allow for dialogue among people of different views, christian nations have a history of oppression (the crusades, germany in ww2, england with regard to ireland, etc.) - why would we want to live in a nation like that. God created us with free will - wouldn't he want us to live in a world that allows for that? Plus, in America, i can talk freely with my hindu and muslim and atheist friends about my faith, and they can talk to me about theirs. we can dialogue and discuss what we have in common and what makes us distinct. The Muslim faith is growing across the world and in America. If you have a school where a muslim or a hindu is elected student body president, do you want his prayer to be prayed for boston's and all the other students? If you want prayer in school then you better be ready to be more accepting of all types of people and all types of prayers (and time for dialogue to develop!!). but most people wanting prayer in schools want "christian" prayer in schools. they have an oppressive, exclusive agenda. besides that, look at our models for people who pray. i don't care if george bush says he prays every day. so did hitler!! just because someone prays doesn't mean he is allowing god to transform him. and the "fruit" i see from george w is few and far between. i have a hard time believing jesus would look at bush's fruit: war, oppression, fewer jobs, tax breaks for rich, lies, etc. and say, "good job - you got that love your neighbor thing down. oh and thanks for praying so much!" i know some would say i'm judging bush but since when does going to church make you a christian? and since when did the bible back out on knowing a follower based on their fruit?

3. Who are we? What is important to us? Are we afraid of homosexuals? Are we afraid of blacks and hispanics in our schools? Do we love the fact that republicans allow our companies to become monopolies? Do we love financial security? Do we love digging for oil, owning guns, pushing Christianity on our neighbors and hating our enemies? Are we afraid of the hard issues like poverty and oppression and find it easier to hang our hats on abortion? Are we afraid of diversity, of dialogue? Are we afriad God can't pull his own weight? Have we not taken seriously the command to love our neighbors? Is it too hard? Too vague? Too easy to hate middle-easterners?

Those are some of my thoughts based on the email you sent me. It's probably fairly clear where I stand on a lot of things. I'm not looking to start an argument and I hope you won't think i'm a non-christian and try to convert me or something dumb like that. It's just that I think that Christianity as it is exhibited by Bush and right wing conservatives is not the type of Christianity i want to embrace. When I look at the government, I don't think, "Now those are some Christians who really know what it means to follow Jesus!" It's disappointing to me that right wing extremists are saying that Democrats can't be Christians. It's offensive to me that to be a Christian is to support Bush and all he stands for. He is not my God or my salvation (or America's). Jesus is. And I'm doing my best to take my cues from Him.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

A New Experience

This was one of the more exhausting and exhilarating weekends of my life. At Mosaic, nine of us have been planning our experiential labyrinth for almost three months now. All our theoretical brainstorming came down to putting paintings where our mouths were and setting up the labyrinth this weekend. After fifteen hours of labor (without a break), i finally retired to bed late saturday night. sunday, working down to the very last minute (and a few minutes after our 6pm opening), the labyrinth became open to the public having transformed eleven rooms and two hallways of a four story FBC building into a re-created, carefully planned conglomeration of art, music, aural poetry, activities, movies, collages, exhibits, slideshows, etc.
I can't believe we did it. My initial thoughts at 11:30 on Saturday night were, "I hope God appreciates this!" [throw in an expletive or two, well deserved after a six inch long (body, not tail) and four inch fat RAT almost ran up my leg - story for another time. i digress]. However by 10:30 Sunday night as I sat in the room i was womaning with scissors, tape, a marker and my phone stuffed into my pockets to prepare for emergencies, tears welled up in my eyes as overwhelmed, I stared at the images and soaked up the aura of the room. I sat in front of three TV's playing slideshows I created of "community," "austin," and "the world" pictures and quotes, and for the first time I saw them anew. Tears sprung not from the three inch scissors poking me in the ass, but from understanding for the first time that God is love and I must be love and sometimes I am love and sometimes I am not love, but the great I AM loves me anyway.
The whole experience was new for me as I've never been a part of anything like this before, but is was good, and though right now the idea of another labyrinth for Advent or Lent makes my stomach turn, I'm sure someday in the future, another will begin to sprout from the remnants of the roots of this labyrinth in my brain. The process reminded me much of the constructing of a Musical - so many scenes and emotions, and so dependent on the audience's response and participation. and surely just as rewarding and exhausting. if i'd have known what an amazing event this would have been, i'd have asked my parents to come experience it. Pitt and Crazy would have loved it. but since none of the people i personally invited showed up anyway, i guess it's better i didn't ask the "rents" to come either. oh well - i just wanted more people to experience god in this way. it was hard too to watch it all being torn down at 10 pm sunday night. approximately 2500 hours of ten to twelve workers time in two days was being stripped down, destroyed, in a matter of minutes. terribly depressing. but beautiful too. we were faithful to a dream and god was faithful enough to show up. thank you god for beauty, art, culture, goodness, forgiveness, peace and transformation. You are good and we will try to be good too. We love you. Amen.

Friday, October 01, 2004

I am officially brilliant.

or naive. one of the two.

i moved to austin august 15th with the high hopes of easily and quickly landing a job substitute teaching with the aisd. after acquiring my transcript from jewell (aisd didn't care about my master's transcript) and applying i began the waiting process.
unbeknownst to me, this process would continue until even today, october 1st. after several weeks of "processing" i finally received my "congratulations, you've been hired" letter and instructions about attending an orientation event scheduled for sept. 29th.
so i waited anxiously for wednesday the 29th. i cancelled my trip to missouri to attend it, and gave up several nights of sleep awaiting its arrival (nerdy, i know, to lose sleep over a boring orientation, but i was a month into waiting for this notice and one can't easily reason with one's fatigue or lack thereof).
orientation day arrived and it was all i imagined and more. the leader gave us all the logistics of the subbing process, acquainted us with "SubFinder" that allows us to schedule our own days off, accept jobs, etc. and finally treated us like the children we always wanted to be by forcing us to write raps and draw pictures about how to come prepared to a subbing job and how to manage unruly children in the classroom. i tried hard not to slit my wrists.
but the day had arrived and i was satisfied. starting tomorrow morning i would begin subbing and receiving an income, right? wrong. "Oh by the way," our instructor started, and i raised my head, daring her to further ruin my day, "it will take at least one week if not two to get your names into the computer and assign you a sub i.d. number." huh? another week or two? are you kidding me? i began devouring our pay day info sheet calculating when i would begin working and when that would allow me to receive my first paycheck. if i don't work until next week, i'll have missed this month's pay cycle, which means i'll be into the next one, which means they won't mail my check till november 30th which means i won't receive my first paycheck until DECEMBER!?!?
holy jesus, deliver me.
i moved to austin sans job, sans, income and sans sense. in missouri, you apply to sub, get accepted and get started. not so in austin, tx. you apply, wait, orientate, wait, sub, wait and then get paid.
consequently, i'm returned to the job search. i'm looking at librarian work or temping or something to get me through. no paycheck and thousands of dollars on my credit cards are not compatible elements in my life as you can well imagine.
and so i sit as the anxiety of bills rises and the self-esteem sinks. what an idiot i was to think this would be a smooth, quick process. oh well. you live you learn right? maybe someday i'll appreciate all this time off and freedom from the tangled web of corporate america. but not now; now i just want to pay my bills.