Friday, December 22, 2006

Tabi Bonney Video

I love DC. this is one of the greatest songs to ever come outta Chocolate City. It's the DC equivalent to Jim Jones "Ballin'". Holler at me if u want the full mp3.

"i been outta school for like... 10 semesters." LOL! put me in the pocket joe!

The craziest dream i ever had.

Ok, so it's like 4am here and i just had to get up cuz i had by far the strangest dream EVER and i needed to write it down so that i never forgot. sadly, some of it i already forgot but i still have a lot of the good stuff.

It was a long dream but i'll pick up from here:

Me and a group of ppl, (i don't remember who they were) walked into someone's apartment and started to just hang out and look around. At one point, one of them asked if it was okay if he went outside to test his bike out that he just built (don't ask). The other two found a couch and sat down to watch tv. I went to the back bedroom and walked around and ran into some ppl from high school. There was a computer in there.

Suddenly, the back bedroom became a large computer showroom. It looked like a computer lab except the computers were for sale. I was using one of the computers and one of my friends (he was a friend in my dream, but not somebody i know in real life) was to my left doing something on another computer. He had been there before me.

Then a mother and daughter walked into the computer lab/showroom with what looked like a sales sheet or catalog. They were speaking a different language to each other. The mother was white and kinda portly and her daughter was white and plain ole weird looking. When the daughter walked in her face showed that she was utterly confused with what was going on. The mother, it seemed was also confused and was trying her best to explain what these computers were to her daughter.

Then the mother started to touch the computer next to me. They were nice computers and some of them, mine included, had wireless keyboards.

Well, she took my keyboard. She reached over and took it right from under me, as innocently as one could possibly do such a thing, and sat it next to her. I watched her sit it down randomly on something (can't remember what) and continue to talk to her daughter who was still confused. I then tried to get it back.

"Excuse me," I said politely but perturbed, "I need that."

The mother and daughter both looked at me confused and did not seem to understand what i was saying. But in broken english she said to talk to her husband who was just walking into the computer lab/showroom.

When he walked in, he walked over to me and sat down in the seat where my friend had been. (I guess my friend knew what was about to happen so he left...figures.)

"Hello, sir, where are you all from?" was my first question.

"Germany," he said in a thick accent. His english wasn't good either, but it was better than his wife's.

"Do you not have computers where you are from?" I asked.

"No," he replied.

"Well, these are computers, and part of the computer is a keyboard." I pointed to the one at the computer where he was sitting. "Your wife kinda took mine and won't give it back."

Suddenly the man started breathing heavily through his nostrils. "I don't like where this is going," he said softly with anger.

"Security!" I said quickly. This dude was about to blow and it wasn't gonna be on me.

As security walked up, I backpedalled to the opposite side of the lab/showroom. Then, the german man proceeded to roar and start fighting with security. Then dude chased me around the store until more security got to him and they started rumbling. This was the craziest part of the dream but i think the whole family was fighting somebody. All i know was that it was pandemonium inside that store. I was making a joke out of it at first, but when dude seriously started to try to beat my ___, i seriously got shook.

Finally, i snuck out of the store and tried to run as fast as i could, but for some reason, i could only run at half-speed, so i eventually stopped. The store (which was at first an apartment) was now part of a mall and i walked through one of the mall entrances and looked nervously from face to face to make sure it wasn't the crazy german family. Then i walked back outside and tried to call my sister, who had been with me at some point of the dream, but no one picked up. Then i remembered that my sister had left her phone at 4th and market earlier in the dream (weird how the dream connected what happened earlier and didnt forget about it right?).

It was okay either way though because I ran into my sister as i was walking from the mall and then into two of my high school friends, Akeisha and Beri, who are now deltas. They just so happened to be with all their sorority sisters outside eating cheesecake. (yes, i know). I said what's up to them and started to tell each of them about what happened but i would always get cut off and then ignored (just like high school, right? lol) Eventually everybody shut up and let me talk and so i started to tell them how I was in a computer store and somebody tried to beat my up, and for some reason i was telling the story with my eyes closed. When i opened my eyes the only person still there was my sister, eating cheesecake so I stopped telling the story, shrugged and took the last piece of cheesecake and a raspberry that was sitting on the platter dish. After that, we walked into a park where some woman was playing a piano concert and talking about World War II.

Then I woke up.

Monday, December 18, 2006

I never slip. I never fall.

Back in business. My new monitor is (vicious and) working. Now i can go back to procrastinating from the comfort of my own home!


Oh, and my life is cinematic. Just thought u should know. Details are unnecessary. Last week before Christmas break!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I tried to told yall...

A reprieve from the abstruse complexities of teaching.

sometime while i was teaching, 10 deep blew up like woah. Jeezy's wearing a hoody in his newest video, and i saw their gear in almost every hood shop on South Street last weekend. I remember when it was a small skate/streetwear brand u could only find in a few shops. I can't lie though. Fall/winter '06 is real hot. especially for the thinking man...

oh the irony...

For those who don't get this one. The pic is made of different shoe boxes.
I feel like i'm selling old stock info...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Philthy Philly

There's something about living in the buttcrack of America (or at least dealing with those who live there). I think about my students. One of the worst things to say to someone during a bathroom break is to say that they're bout to "take a smash" (translation: "take or dump" or "have a bowel movement" as my mother would say). Doodoo (yes, i spelled it out like that). It stinks, but there's something funny about it. Farts. They stink, but you're lying if u can say u never farted and laughed or even laughed when somebody else farted. So my point (obscure as it may seem) is that life in the dumps has its moments of humor in the midst of all the misfortune and the stench of s-h-i-t (using it in the vernacular sense. forgive the obscenity).

Case in point, this saturday, while downtown, i stopped by a t-mobile store to pay my phone bill. i had to wait b/c every attendant was "attending," as they do, so i just hung out and waited. while i waited, a woman walked in and started looking at the display phones. she was a black woman dressed in full muslim garb. this is not odd in philly, where there is a very strong presence of african-americans who, even though they are slave descendants like me and (maybe--depending on who's reading this--) you, are also Orthodox Sunni Muslims and dress in the same style as the arabs we often profile as terrorists and suicide bombers.

So i'm hanging out waiting for a free attendant and this woman, in her burqa is walking around the store and touching phones and looking back and forth in the store. suddenly stands start beeping and everyone's looking around trying to figure what the annoying sound is. another black woman in a full burqa (with only eye-slits) walks in and seems to be asking the first black woman why she's taking so long and walks back out to her car. Not long after, the first woman walks out of the store too and into her friend's car on the curb and they drive off.

She left with one of the display phones. you know, those ones in the store that are charged and activated for full use but connected to the stand? well, she disconnected one of them. evidently she wanted to have free cell phone service for a month or two and figured a quick way to get it done was to just lift one straight from the store.

Only thing was, she took a fake one. yeah, u know the plastic ones that are sometimes next to the real ones in a cell phone store? yeah, she picked up the plastic one on accident. funny right?

My second story comes from last night. After waiting forever for the blue line at 40th and market, these two drunk men walked into the same car with me and a number of other ppl, but not without bumping recklessly into many of us and saying God knows what to us. problem was, 3 of the ppl who were bumped didn't take too kindly to the drunkards and began a heated shouting match with the 2 drunkards on the subway. The 3 in question looked to be 18-25, black, 2 guys, 1 girl, and were going at it with two very drunk older black man, one of whom was kinda muscular for a drunk. (I'm not sure what that means, but oh well.) This may not seem like a big deal, especially to those of u used to the urban life. But the sad part was when one of the younger guys from the group of 3 took off his jacket, ready to fight.

Turns out the 3 of them were part of a group that promoted non-violence in Philadelphia. The slogan on the front of their shirts: "Making a safer Philadelphia" with a "Stop the violence" slogan plastered on the back. Fitting, huh? Even more fitting was that the subway car was filled with old black women. Picture those old black women you see that spend everyday going to and from church. it was a picture of a lot of things all at once. A fart personified, perhaps. Funny for a moment, but all in all, the stench is repulsive.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Words of wisdom

Today I had a meeting with Dina Portnoy, head of the UPenn/TFA grad program about my (lack of) progress this semester (some things never change huh? ;-p). *Sidenote: Dina is also the mother of DJ Drama. no lie.*

Well anyways, in our conversation she let me know:

"Teaching gets better, but it never gets easy."

I wholeheartedly believe her. 2 weeks till christmas.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The inescapability of the self

"Wherever I go, there I am." I line from The Wire that I'm sure was taken from somewhere else, but struck a chord (like most things from the show).

Another week begins tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The best gift a new teacher could ask for

Not-so-short and sweet:

After my reading class (which was bananas) left , I took my regular kids as a whole class on a bathroom break. We lined up at the door first. Boys on my right in height order, and girls on my left. After waiting a few seconds for them to be quiet, we started to walk to the other side of the building where the girls bathroom was. By the time we got over there, I realized that the girls bathroom is locked and so I would need to get a key from the security guard. So the question was: Do I leave my class alone in the middle of the hall while other classes are working to go get the key or do I take my class with me to search for the security guard who could be anywhere in the building?

I chose the former nervously and left them in a line to go get the key and warned them that I had no problem cancelling their ice cream party AND their bathroom break if they were rowdy and reminded them that other classes were learning still. I walked to the other side of the building and down the steps and found the security guard and ran back to where my kids were and saw the strangest thing I have yet to see since I started teaching.

My kids were in a perfectly straight, completely silent line.

My boys were in height order right behind the girls (who can line up in any order because they know how to act), facing forward (which meant they were not facing my direction), and were just waiting for me to come back.

I noticed that Mr Brown, one of the 6th grade teachers on that side of the hall, had now closed his door when it was at first opened, so I assumed that the only reason they were in a line was because they were being rowdy and Mr Brown had yelled at them till they did what they were sposed to.

Turned out that they did it by themselves because they wanted to impress me. I almost cussed I was so happy.

Now that's something to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving ppl.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Back like cooked crack..

It was a great weekend. Got to be back in the Lou with normal successful black people my age and hang out with friends and loved ones. Definitely what I needed going into the home stretch before Christmas.

My mother says a lot of things, but one she often repeats is "The Lord looks out for babies and fools." I definitely felt that this weekend, or at least the last part. After taking an unplanned nap Sunday afternoon, I woke up between 5 and 6 pm. I thought everything was gonna be okay tho cuz my flight didn't leave til 6:50...or so i thought. Once I arrived at the ticket counter at St Louis International, I learned that the flight I thought left at 6:50 really left at 6:25 and it was too late for me to catch it. So, I missed my flight.

No biggie, I thought. Put me on the next flight.

No can do, Mr Garr. That's the last flight to Philadelphia this evening. The first flight out the next day would put me back in the City of Brotherless Thugs after 10am.

School starts at 8:15.

So, needless to say, I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. I was going to have to take my first sick day, and have my first substitute. Ya boy was SHOOK. I've heard plenty of stories and seen how classes behave when they have a substitute. And whatever u think is bad, these kids do 10 times worse. Fights, thrown books, broken desks, broken anything, taking teacher's belongings, roaming the halls instead of going to class, things thrown out of windows. I was worried sick that my kids were gonna go bananas when they walked in and saw some random person sitting at my desk this morning.

But I did what I could, made some phone calls, made some arrangements, and tried to load enough work on them to keep them busy all day. Then I enjoyed my last night in StL with the class of 07.

I caught the first flight back to Philly, came back to the crib and decided, "Hey, I'm going to Tilden. Who cares if I took the day off, I'm going to see what my kids are up to." It was more because I wanted to clean up the apocalyptic rubble I was sure to encounter and not wait till tomorrow. I also wanted to be able to make the necessary phone calls today for all the kids who were going crazy and get they mama's on the horn ASAP.

So I dropped my stuff at the crib on 43rd and walked to my trolley stop. Caught the 36 and got off at the normal corner. Only this time, it was around 2pm instead of 7am. I walked into the school, made my way up the 4 flights of steps and walked onto the 4th floor. I could hear my class from down the hall and had thoughts to just turn around and go home. Save myself the trouble of having to confront whatever misbehavior I was sure I would see.

I got to my door and peaked through the glass window and saw a mess of papers all over the floor. Everyone was talking, kinda loudly at that. But to my surprise, they were all in their seats and most of them were working. Nothing was broken from what I could tell. No books had been thrown. No one was hanging out the window. I was pleasantly surprised. But the real surprise happened when I opened the door and walked in.

"MR. GARR!!!" the class erupted into cheers when they saw me walk through the door. Two of my kids even ran up and hugged me as though I had freed them slavery. It was weird and surreal. The same group of kids who have no problem cussing me out and telling me how much they hate me and my class were actually happy to see me. To be honest, I thought they would've been pissed to see me come in on the day they had a sub, but not so.

And really, I think it was more that they hated the sub than they like me. It was more of a choice between two evils for them. The sub was super strict and so they prolly didn't like the fact that they couldn't bulldoze him (like they sometimes do to me). Either way, I came in, got a report of what had happened that day (turned out that 4 of my boys were suspended for something they did in Art class), and got to work on Social Studies. Save 2 knuckleheads, everybody did their work quietly at their tables. They cleaned up the room, straightened the desks, and got to go home AT 3:19. (It's been a long time since the whole class left on time. It actually may have been the first time ever).

I said earlier how one of my mom's favorite sayings is that "The Lord looks out for babies and fools". I really felt what she meant today. All that worrying was for naught. I was the fool who missed his flight yesterday and was scared silly that the worse was bound to happen. My boss was gonna think I was irresponsible, my kids were gonna kill each other, etc, etc, etc. Turns out none of the above happened. The Good Lord looked after me and my babies today. I even got them to work silently at their desks.

All the other teachers asked me "What are you doing here?" when they saw me at the end of the day.
In her characteristically intimidating manner, my principal said "I thought you took the day off, Mr Garr. Why are you here?" as I stood in the office.
"I came to see my kids," I replied with a smirk. "My flight came in and school was still in session so I tried to see if I could teach em a lil sumthin today."
She smiled back, as did the other veteran teachers in the office. Maybe I impressed them. I kinda impressed myself. But even more than that, I realized how invested I've become in these children. Even when they get on my last nerve, and I'm ready to manually remove their brains through their nostrils, I can't see myself letting them down. They've got enough of that already.
So no more playing the fool.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The itsy bitsy spider

Don’t look down

I watch as it falls silently, suspending as it were, on an invisible tether.
Calm, precise, neither fast nor slow, its mouth delivers the line that holds it
midair, spinning solemnly as the air wraps around it,
suspending as it were, as though speech were a rope, a noose, a lasso.

The closer I get, the more I cannot stop looking at it.
Its tiny eyes come into focus
I wonder
Can you see me?
(It was never as easy to kill
the ones that were so blatant. Those tucked in corners
offered less guilt and much less fascination.)

I am certain that it sees me because it stopped

in front of me
as though I were some discovery, some distant shore
to lay claim to, if it could only be sure
how to navigate the sea of air to reach the beach that is my lip or lobe.

And because I am certain
that at this point it is thinking solely of itself, I think of my own self.
The many words that I have hung from ceilings
like tissue paper cutouts, the constant eye
contact, seeing nothing more than my own reflection in another’s pupils.

If it is looking at itself in my eyes, I am not surprised.
What surprises me is the courage with which it meets death
as my hand comes from underneath
because it does not move.


"and i can go on and on and on... but who cares?"

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

On second thought

"I never vote for anybody. I always vote against."
-WC Fields

With control of the House in the hands--or should I say "hooves"--of the Donkey Dems *rimshot* and the Senate at 50-49 thus far, I'm realizing that I should've cast my vote back home in VA.

Did I know anything about the issues? Heck nah, that's why I didn't vote in the first place. (Well, actually, it was because I spend all my time trying to figure out how to control/teach 23 crazy children). But I did know that I don't like George Allen. Something about him tells me he's felt the heat of a cross burning.

So I didn't vote and now control of the Senate hinges on what state's Senate race? Virginia! Of course it does! If i'da voted, it prolly woulda been a landslide victory for Allen and there woulda been celebratory cross burnings everywhere south of Prince William County. But I didn't, and so of course, it's a dead heat. So if Allen wins, I guess it's my fault huh? Sike nah...

But really though, people are all giddy about the results of this election, but does anyone have any idea of the Democratic Agenda? Like, what are they gonna do now that they've won? Just sit there and wait for the Republicans to say something so they can yell "NO!" and claim they've done something? Their majority is flimsy and if they can't come up with a To Do List that is more exhaustive than "Fix what Dubya broke," The Elephants will return en masse into the Capitol (a stampede, if u will) and hold onto the Presidency in '08.

Me, I could care less if the D's win. I'm all about balanced government. Lord Acton said it best: "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely." Its obvious with all the GOP scandals that that's exactly what happened. Even John McCain admitted it, even though it was prolly half-posturing for a Presidential run in 08, when he said, "We came to Washington to change government and government changed us." And if the D's make even greater gains in '08, the same thing could very well happen to them. So I'm happy more that the Congress will be more than Bush's Radio Flyer wagon (yes, I just said "Radio Flyer wagon") and do what Civics told me it was designed to do: keep the Commander in Chief in check like a pair of Nikes.

(At least Bush was smart enough to get his Supreme Court noms in EARLY. :-/)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Mother Kazakhstan...

Go see Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

It's got the social commentary of Dave Chappelle and it manages to succeed in the one thing that (in my opinion) Chappelle never did: scattalogical humor. Prolly one of the funniest movies I will ever see. Definitely one of the smartest.

I went to the concert for UPenn's gospel choir tonight. It was pretty good. It's interesting to see how different schools do things like gospel choirs. It was very different from a Visions concert. First off, it wasn't free :-/. But they also had a running skit and a theme that was more... entertaining(?) than spiritual i guess. Ench... I enjoyed it. Next semester, I'll make it to more than 3 rehearsals so I can actually sing with them.

On the walk back home from the concert, I was singing some of the songs and thinking back of the good ole days at the WU and at Visions. In the background was this popping sound. One after the other. But it sounded pretty distant, and to be honest, I didn't even realize that I had heard the noises. Then as a crossed an intersection and passed the UPenn security guards that regularly patrol the area at night, I noticed that there was a lotta convo on their walkie talkies. Much more than usual when I pass them.

Suddenly I realized, those were gunshots. The popping back and forth. And it happened pretty close to UPenn. "Good thing I'm walking home," I thought. Once I got home, I came back to the bedroom and started to chill. Then i heard the popping again. Only this time, it sounded like it was right outside my bedroom window. I went to the window and realized that the shooting was taking place on 44th St or maybe 45th (I live on 43rd). Not long after that litany of gunshots and the epiphany of what was happening, I heard the sirens go off.

I had planned to go up the block and do some quick grocery shopping. That got nixed EARLY.

I'm goin to bed. What am I teaching tomorrow? I have no idea. (yikes!)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Greazy's Gear Guide Vol. 1

I was tryna see Borat tonight, but it seems like every person west of the Schuylkill River had the same idea and they all wanted to go to the same theatre so i'm back at the crib on 43rd. In order to pass the time, I have decided to write the first of a series of intermittent posts. I get a lotta questions about my sense of style, seeing as i try to stay ahead of the curve on most fronts. I was blessed in that my mother studied fashion in college and always made sure I knew the difference between "name brand" and "quality materials." Her love for clothes got passed down to me through my genes i guess. Therefore, out of my own sense of altruism, I have decided to begin to share my knowledge with the world. And by "world," I mean the 4 ppl who read my blog.

This first edition of Greazy's Gear Guide is for the grown ups. I'm a twenty-something, salaried professional, so we'll talk hoodies, tees, and nikes later.

I have decided to open Greazy's Gear Guide with a brief tutorial on watches because I have recently gotten into the watch game. I'm very much a lightweight right now, no swiss-made timepieces, no automatics, no COSC certified chronometers (picked up a Japanese quartz Rose Gold Invicta cronograph for my bday in June) but all in due time. Either way, I will begin with the basics.

How do I wear a watch? This may seem an ignorant question, but judging by what I've seen over my life, it is obvious that most ppl do not realize that a watch is meant to be worn on the left wrist. Unless the crown is placed on the left side of the watch casing, go southpaw with the timepiece. The reason is functional: with the crown on the right side of the casing, one may reset the time without taking the watch off one's wrist. Of course, this goes to show the millenia of favoritism for all things right-handed, but such is life. If you're left handed and wanna wear your watch on your right wrist, get a left handed watch.

How do I know a left handed watch from a right handed one? The crown is on the left side of the casing.

Now, for you right handers who've been wearing your velcro Timex's on your right wrists, undo your strap and put it where its sposed to be or you will be forever seen as an imbecile, maybe not by the majority of ppl, but definitely by those who know the difference between chronograph and chronometer. And better to be seen as a cheapskate than an all-out idiot.

Now, that we've gotten that one outta the way, one thing I've been asked often is "where'd you cop that?"(Usually that comes 2 months--or years--after the same person asks "WTF are you wearing?" with a face like i just shoved excrement in their mouths). I've always been very tight-lipped about those types of things, so as to not unleash the hypebeast in us all, but I will begin to divulge some of my best not-so-kept secrets. I tend to stay away from the generic spots with mass-produced products (i.e. Express, Kenneth Cole, and H&M more recently). I would hate to see somebody in the same button-down or hoody I just bought and it hurts to pay more than $25 for anything, especially if i can't say like Kanye "Nigga, you ain't up on this."

For me, the top priority is always quality. Buy gear u can wear for the next 20 years. Who cares what the name is or if its plastered on the front for all to see. Craftmanship and fabrication are key. Poly and Ester are always a no-no. Cotton, Wool, Silk, and Linen are always best and it helps to know subsets of fabrication so that you know what ur getting when it says Cashmere, Merino, Lambswool, etc. Likewise, its a good thing to know about blends: Cotton/Linen, Silk/Cashmere, blah blah, etc. Know what's good for what kinda weather. Don't wear the seersucker blazer out to the club in November and don't wear the camel hair blazer to the club in July; u'll look like a fool. Look at seams, zippers, overall construction. Know pricepoints. 100 dollars is expensive for a cotton sweater, but cheap for a good cashmere one. (You can still find it cheaper tho ;-))

"Don't ask me what it costs, ask me what it's worth."

<-- My sexy pose. What I paid. Blazer: about 15. Shirt: 20-30. Loafers: 42. Jeans: 40-60. (can't remember exactly, i jus know that i splurged on the jeans)

Now for retail prices. Blazer: 200 (estimation on the low end) Shirt: 145 (no lie). Loafers: 175. Jeans: around 150, maybe more tho.

Add both sets up and compare them to each other. "You are now looking at one smart black boy. Mama ain't raise no fool..." LOL

When it comes to grown up clothes, the answer is always second-hand shops (and next is outlets). Somebody else already paid for the name and got a couple wears out of it. You get to be young and fly without paying flashy prices:

The Scholar Shop For all my STL folks, the Scholar Shop is the one-stop spot to get gear before your interview. The stuff is always well taken care of and where else can you get a Brooks Brothers dress shirt for $6-$12? For those that don't know, the Scholar Shop is a consignment store where ppl take the clothes they no longer want (or fit) and sell it. A portion of the money is used to fund scholarships (i think) or something feel-goodish. Basically, old, rich white folks take their stuff there and you can get good deals on high-end gear. Of course, you gotta search for the good stuff and you gotta fish through a number of Cosby Sweaters and ugly golf polos, but if you don't mind knowing that someone who probably suffers from osteoporosis once wore your suit, you're good to go.

I bought a heavy wool suit from there for 12.50 (it was during a 50% off sale) once. The jacket fit but the pants were too big. I took them jokers to a tailor and got em fixed up for about 20-30 bones and WAM! I'm wearing a fresh suit that prolly retailed in the 4-figure range, but i paid less than 50 for it (BALLIN'!!!)

Buffalo Xchange For my Philly folks, there's no better place to pop tags then Buffalo Xchange. Is that Ralph Lauren Purple Label Cashmere? You bet it is, and ur payin 15% of what they'd charge you at Neiman Marcus. (Copped!) Now when you say "Purple Label sweater with the logo secret," like Jay-Z, you'll really be tellin the truth. It's honestly not as cheap as The Scholar Shop (it's the East Coast, after all). A Polo button-down is about $16 there when it might be 10 in stl, but its still a heckuva lot cheaper than $85 retail. But because the ppl who bring their stuff there are generally younger, it's a lot easier to find stuff for the interview and for the club or the latest cool-guy shindig.

Lastly, Ebay If you know what ur looking for as far as product--not brand name--then Ebay can give you good deals. I've had more than a few ppl ask me about a camel hair blazer I have. (pictured above) I got it off ebay. I knew I wanted a camel hair blazer and i typed it in and found one my size and paid less than 20 for both (i have 2). No, I didn't type in "Bape hoody." I type in the product and fabrication of what i'm looking for: "Cashmere sweater," "Corduroy blazer" "Hammer pants," etc.

The only time I search for a brand name is if I know its obscure enough that there won't be 25 ppl bidding on the same product. So the names we all know (Prada, Gucci, Versace...) are never a good idea. Plus, it's ebay, the land of a million fakes. It's MUCH more likely that you'll find a fake Ralph Lauren dress shirt than a fake Hickey Freeman dress shirt.

And when it comes to brand names, while quality always trumps a name, it's good to know that some brands are known for quality product and construction. Even more important to know is that while some brands are household names like "Ralph Lauren," others like "Hickey Freeman" aren't (so far as twenty-somethings go). It doesnt hurt to go look for that Rolex when you wanna ball with a timepiece, but there are a number of brands that are equally sought after for quality craftmanship, if not more so. Audemars Piguet will prolly be the next Cristal when ppl begin to realize what Jim Jones and Jay and Beyonce were saying in "Ballin'" and "Upgrade U" respectively. Besides that, there's Vacheron Constantin, Omega, Baume & Mercier, the list goes on.

The point of that isn't to name drop (though it seems i did a pretty good job at that). When you know what ur looking for as far as quality, u'll discover the names that carry that level of quality consistently and realize what's baller and not. You don't get the Purple Label sweater at the second-hand shop cuz it's Purple Label (i'm lying. u do get it cuz it's Purple Label, but stay with me), you get it because its a high quality fabric with top-notch construction that's meant to be passed on to your son some day.

And it's not a bad idea for us to think that way about our gear. It's your money, get the most out of it. Really, us roosters strut for the hens of the chicken coop anyway. And maybe its crude to think that this all revolves around procreation, but really, it does. And for those who are "beyond" that notion, you can at least say it's about posterity in some strange, pretentious way.

*plays "All Falls Down" softly in the background*

Call Me... "Mr. Bombastic"

Friday, November 03, 2006

3 Pictures to sum up my day

This was what greeted me when I walked out of Tilden this afternoon. School let out at 12:19 today, and us teachers had Professional Development from 1-3. Me and Ms Lyon, my TFA compadre, left to go get some food from Chillin Pizza before PD started and saw no less than 10 cop cars (including the unmarked Caddy and the Paddy Wagon) right outside. Turns out that there was a shootout of some sort on the corner right around the time school let out.

This was the menu of Chillin Pizza. Notice the slogan:

"Why you cook tonight, We do Pizza right!"

Also of note: "FootBall Special" Obviously, everything around Tilden reminds me of the importance of education. But it also reveals the insignificance of education. Think about it, whoever owns Chillin Pizza has their own private business, but can't spell worth crap. So how important is it for me to make sure my kids can read in the first place?

And lastly, this was our agenda when we walked into our PD session, (or perhaps more appropriately, when the administration--our bosses and the ppl actually running PD--walked into our PD session 15 minutes late). What's wrong with this picture?

I couldn'ta planned it any better myself. It's like life imitating art imitating life.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Lost in the sauce...

A quote from Jigga's latest radio blitzkrieg on Hot 97
"Every step you take, they remind you you ghetto...Now the question is is to
have had and lost better than not having at all?"

Listening to that I can't help but think about my kids' attitudes towards education. Sometimes it (can seem like it) is better to not try than to try to learn something and fail in the end.

Stream of consciousness post

"If you succeed, prepare to be crucified."

This week's been another rough one for ya boy, but I'm taking the punches like a boxer in the ring. You come to expect the one-two jab followed by the uppercut after awhile. The disillusionment translates to the lives that are in front of you everyday in addition to the selfish notions of self-preservation in an environment where it's acceptable for 11 and 12 year olds to say "fuck you" because you told them to get in line (for the 5th time).

One of my boys (it's always "one of my boys," sadly) robbed me today. It wasn't like the nigga stuck me up and was like "Gimme your wallet". Never that (I'd have to really hem a child up for that). It was actually much less serious than that, but still, he stole something from me. We were in math and I was tired of having to tell him to stop talking and to get his notebook out. I went back to his desk and opened up his (torn up) binder and tried to find a clean page of paper. Every sheet was covered with random drawings. This boy usually spends every day drawing in his notebook and "baking" on his friends in the class. Baking: the act of playing the dozens, "cutting up," "treating," or "joaning" on someone by the use of humorous and witty comments. The goal of which is to leave one's adversary "speechless."

Once I saw that the young man in question had nothing worth keeping in his binder, I took it. I closed it, took it off his desk and put it in my "work corner." This is basically my desk, but its really a mass of boxes, papers, and posters in, on, and around where my desk is. Of course this made him get all hype on some "Gimme back my binder!" type stuff to which I replied "No, your mother can pick it up," to which he responded "Fine, you take my stuff, I'ma take something off your desk," to which I replied, "No you're not. You're going to Ms Craig's room." Ms Craig is the lead teacher who takes students when they've been kicked out of their teacher's room. He refused (of course) and went over to my desk to eye something to take. I didn't wanna have to choke him for breaking something of mine, so instead I dragged him outside (literally) and had security take him to Ms Craig's room.

Now, I didn't really drag the poor child, but he was fighting against me, and he was losing. So as I moved one way, and he fought the other way, he ended up being dragged out. Oh well....

My other big problem student was already out of my room because he couldn't keep his mouth shut when we were taking our bathroom break (which took 30 minutes). So with Problem #1 and #2 out of the room, we made some progress during Math. We covered an entire lesson and they didn't go bananas for a full hour and some change.

Then Problem #1 came back and immediately brought back chaos. Within a couple minutes, Problem #2 came back in. He was still mad cuz he got embarrassed and blah blah blah. I cared about this much. Probably less. But then Problem #2 came up to my desk and this is the dialogue that ensued:
Problem #2: Gimme back my binder.
Me: No. Take your seat.
Problem #2: Nah...Fuck nah!
Me: You're not getting it back so sit down.
Problem #2: No! You take something of mine, I'm gonna take something off your desk.

Now, meanwhile, Problem #1 has made Problems #3, 4, 5, and 6 to get riled up and now there is pandemonium in the room. Also, I have 5-6 students who are begging for my attention to help them finish their math worksheets. Problem #1 and Problem #5 are horseplaying and screaming in the back of the room. Problem #3 and Problem #6 are at the very brink of getting into a full-out fistfight in the same general area.

As I'm trying to deal with all this, Problem #2 picks up the wood model I bought from Ikea to decorate the room and takes it to his desk. This is what he has decided to take from me. Since he went to his desk, I decide to let him be and try to do some damage control in other parts of the room. By the time I remember that he has something of mine, I look in the back and ask James and Rymier, "Where's [Problem #2]?" "He left," they reply.

Admittedly, my blood boils, but all I do is shrug my shoulders. I can't show my anger in front of these kids and especially when the person who's responsible for my anger isn't even there. Somewhere in between all this, Problem #1 blessed me with another "Fuck you" when I told him to come to my desk so I could get him up to speed on what he missed in math. He went back to dramatic horseplay with Problem #5. Eventually he decides to walk out too.

As each day with my kids passes, I become more and more dissatisfied. Not so much with my children, but with everything on which they depend.

First is myself and my relative ineptitude as an educator. I don't know what I'm doing, my kids know it, and they're suffering for it everyday. Because of me, I feel like some of my "at-risk" kids are being pushed closer to the grave and the jail cell.

But then there's the system, the one that pushes children through grade levels like noodles in a spaghetti factory. I need to flunk some of my students because they will not be ready for the 7th grade next year, but I can't flunk them because of this rule and that reason, and such-and-such is special ed, and blah blah blah. Then they wonder why 50% of Philadelphia 9th graders actually finish high school in 4 years. I watch outstanding teachers everyday. I'm surrounded by them. I don't believe all the talk about "underqualified teachers" in urban schools. Here, I'm the unqualified teacher. These other teachers have systems, skills, and swagger that gets the job done day in and day out. They have the experience to control a classroom of knuckleheads and hoodrats (real talk) with so much as a look. The administration has this to say and that to say, but it's far too much talk and not enough action. The truth is that schools like mine need stricter rules of discipline and achievement. But instead, we make room for the flaws. Goals are set at 50%-75% when each grade is already behind 1-2 years in the first place. We can't focus on a student who walks around the classroom and won't take his seat cuz we need to concentrate on the fights in the halls. Well, maybe if we were more strict about keeping kids from getting out their seats, they wouldn't wander into the halls and fight each other.

But in the end, I look at the parents. Children, at their best and at their worst, are reflections of the environment from which they come. It is obvious that my students with the worst behavior do not have parents that, frankly, do their jobs as parents. When I was a kid, my mother kept her foot so far up my behind I could taste the leather on the toebox and the rubber on the soles. Who cares if I liked the teacher? Sit down, shut up, and do your work, Jonathan. Don't make me come up to that school. And to be fair, some of these parents are spread thin. They're raising 5-6 kids (literally) by themselves. But at the same time, keep your legs closed mami. Grow up, realize the bulbs of responsibilities that are aching for your attention, take the money for ur fresh weave and buy a book to read to your kid(s) instead. As my Lead Teacher says, "Get off the couch, stop watching soap operas, waiting for ur check to come in the mail."

It's harsh, yes. Before I stepped foot into Soufwest, I would've called such talk insensitive and out of touch. But I'm here now. I breathe it everyday. My Lead Teacher was born and bred in Southwest Philadelphia and her opinions are about as pungent as an overflowed toilet, but they're real. I watch my students spend their money every morning at the bodega on soda and bags of chips and have to argue with them between 8:15 and 9 every morning to get them to put the soda and chips back into their bookbags. Who eats Cheetoes at 9 in the morning? But then I think about sitting on the trolley at 7am and watching a woman get on the trolley with her two small girls and the black plastic bag that all the bodegas use. She took her seat, situated her girls, and opened up a bag of chips and started feeding a girl who couldn't have been more than 3 or 4 years old. I watched her as she did it and wondered, who told u it was ok to feed ur baby chips for breakfast?

Ignorance breeds ignorance just as intelligence breeds intelligence (and money begets mo' money). The sad thing though, is that population growth is exponential. And by such a law, decline is also exponential. So as babies keep having babies, more and more things keep getting lost, and more and more of the wrong things become glorified and taken as norms instead of exceptions, and I enter room 401 every morning and meet the faces of those exceptions who have come to view the eccentricity of their existence as a norm and injustice as a way of life.

Call me... who?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Gone till November....21st

I've come to the conclusion that no rapper, dead or alive, has the depth and breadth of lyrical dexterity as does Jay-Z. I will expound in a future post, but let's just say the boy Young Hov has surpassed Biggie significantly in this regard

*Note* I don't consider Pac as competition at all when it comes to lyrical dexterity, especially when compared to rappers like Big, Eminem, Andre 3000, Big Boi, Common, and of course Jay.

The floodgates are open. May the waters rush in.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Today was the first time in a VERY long time that i actually got to chill out with a piano and "rock out" as the melanin-deficient say. I miss the leisure of life at Wash U where i was able to go play and sing anywhere at anytime. Because of UPenn's intense dorm security and my own hectic schedule, i never get much time to unwind like that. Aside from that, teaching--really yelling at kids all day--is ruining my voice. Still, it was refreshing to tickle the ivories and harmonize--or try to--with me, myself, my mp3 player, and a piano. Hopefully, the future will allow me some time to get back to my 1st love (and maybe make some money on the side). I do weddings, reunions, anniversaries, and bar and bat mitzvahs (mazeltov!). My "Hava Nagila" is vicious!

And can you people (you know who are) stop with the "Leave a memory about me..." on Facebook? It's very annoying. U want a memory? How bout that time u put a useless note on the facebook asking ur friends to talk about their memories with u?

ugh... I'm restless.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Music: my first love

I guess Hov read my rant about my disappointment in him for "Show Me What You Got" and those lines from "Kingdom Come". But (almost) all is forgiven Jigga. "Lost Ones" leaked last week and it's real real talk from the greatest alive. It's full of jewels. A standout:
"...And iunt even know how it came to this/except that fame is/ the worst drug known to man/It's stronger than heroin,/ when you can look in the mirror like 'Here I am'/ And still not see what you've become/ I know I'm guilty of it too, but not like them/ You lost one."

Why has Futuresex/Lovesound been on constant repeat all week? I downloaded it a while back, listened to it once, and ignored everything except "Losing My Way," undoubtedly due to my affinity for all things melancholy and depressing. But for the past 1-2 weeks, i been cranking tha whole joint nonstop. It still makes me mad that a white boy can make better black music than 99% of black artists.

Now, I think most ppl can agree that Jim Jones is a joke. And I'm willing to bet that he is being funded by the US government to infiltrate young black american minds and dumb us down. (Let's face it, Bush is in office, and he does not care about black people. Jimmy Capo = CB4.)

Still I have the most randomly unexpected remix: "Walk it Out" featuring Jim Jones AND Andre 3000. Talk about running both sides of the continuum of rap genius to incompetence. And in true rap fashion, 3000 kills it: "Your white tee, well to me, look like a night gown/ Make ya momma proud, take that thing 2 sizes down." (Far from the best line, but a witty zinger.)

Unk (whoever the crap he is) gives a forgettable effort on the mic. And finally Jimmy! (yesssssss!) Besides the fact that he seems like he's struggling to keep on beat, i realize that Jimmy sounds like a fat man when he raps. but not just any fat man, he sounds like a fat man who had to run up 10 flights of steps right before he got in the booth. And the actually lyrics? They sound like he wrote them while he was running up those 10 flights:

"I'm blowing purple smoke, i cough it out/ Ball it up and ball it out/tap the bottle, pour it out/ BAAAALLLIIIIIIIIINNN'!!!"

I love it!! Jim Jones is one of the greatest worst rappers of all time. The man who, in his own words, brought New York back. Where's this man's Source Award!!!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

real talk...

"Jesus teaches us to measure our lives by losses rather than gains, by sacrifices rather than self-preservation, by time spent for others rather than time lavished upon ourselves, by love poured out rather than love poured in"

-caught me off guard.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Summer Soft...

Seems like summer was such a long time ago. Today was the coldest day yet since i've been in philly. It wasnt freezing, wasn't even that cold, just colder than it has been. But winter's on its way. And after tomorrow, it's just 2 months till Christmas! (and Christmas break!!!!)

Some of the funny things that happened today:
  • During her after school tutoring session, Chantelle told her teacher (and my fellow 6th grade TFA compatriot), Ms Lyon, about all the things that the other kids had been stealing out of her classroom. It was a very long list. It was sad but funny.
  • Afterward, we found a pile of mouse droppings in a corner of her room (we'll refrain from the details)
  • I had to call the father of my African boy who barely speaks English but is constantly misbehaving and the mother of one of my other, more problematic students. Listening to parents chew out their kids with me on the other end is always interesting, sometimes entertaining.
  • Prolly the worstest moment came when Ms. Powell, the "Math Curriculum Coordinator" or whatever the heck u call it came by my room and asked what lesson I was on in Math. I looked quickly at her grid and noticed that my lead teacher had told Ms Powell that her class was on Chapter 3 Lesson 1. I told Ms Powell that my class was on Chapter 1 Lesson 5... Ms. Powell looked at me, nodded her head slowly and said "Ok... so what happened?" What she really meant was "What the bloodclot have you been doing for the past 2 months?!" The first response that came to me was "i spend the entire time trying to get them to shut up and sit down" but all i said was something about remediating and blah blah blah. the funny thing is, i know that my lead teacher lied to ms powell cuz her class wass just finishing chapter one last thursday. i guess i was supposed to lie but oh well, nobody briefed me beforehand.
  • Shirena's excuse for not doing her homework: "I came home late and had to go to bed early." Even funnier was Kadiatu's response: "How you gonna come home late but go to bed early? That don't make no sense!" Kadiatu: 1 Shirena: 0, for zingers and for homework.

And while we're being materialistic...

Hilarious! but at $125 a pop, they'll stay on the shelves. I'll make one my durned self, ya dig.

Reasons I am broke

Green Apple Tree Hoodies and Tees:

10 deep hoodies:

raw selvage denim:

and of course:

the swoosh!

-young black male, addicted to retail

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Never put off procrastination

It's early sunday evening and i'm about to get ready to plan for next week (only 3.5 days of teaching this week! YESSSSSS!!!) but i figured i'd take the opportunity to procrastinate and add to the blog. I did dishes today, which isn't much of an accomplishment in and of itself, but i hadnt done dishes for at least 2 weeks. let's just say, i'll prolly rewash all the dishes again before i actually eat off them again. but i'm happy to say that i don't have dirty dishes. I definitely shoulda gotten an apartment with a dishwasher though. :-/

i put a video of somebody doing the wu-tang so u can get an idea of how its sposed to look and then imagine my version of it (lol). enjoy.

all in all, it was a pretty good weekend. Scorcese is a G for real. The Departed = Classic. Finally a good movie worth my $11, even though i snuck in to see it. (yeah, it's $11 to watch a movie here...not BALLIN!!!)

speaking of the least talented rapper in DipSet (that's almost like saying "the person with the worst sight in a school for the blind"), can we all agree that Ballin' is the most ignorant song, with one of the most ignorant videos (push ups with a yungin on ur back? who r u? a Balrog/Bishop Don Juan hybrid?)...i digress. Can we all agree that although Jimmy's latest airwave assault is as ignorant as an episode of Maury Povich paternity tests, it is as catchy as AIDS in a 1970's San Francisco bath house (is that comment considered homophobic? ...oh well. no homo!) i can't get that hook out my head! Neither can the kids at Tilden. BALLIN'

yo, i'm so glad i went to wash u. the black ppl at upenn are "joe" as the kids say in philly. especially the dudes. self-absorbed, self-involved, "i'm an african-american at an ivy league institution. and you are?" go eat a turnip, u pretentious gobstopper. (i'm tryna keep this safe for the kids.) but sweeping generalizations aside, i've ran into a few too many black brothers (i sound like an old man saying that) who i feel like my 6th grade girls could rob and beat up if they were ever in the same place at the same time. not cool.

And since we're talking about UPenn, how about UPenn alumnus John Legend's new CD? that joint is hot fiya! real grown up and the writing is impeccable! Listen to Another Again and i'm going crazy cuz 1) the song by itself is hot, 2) the lyrics carry the song (as opposed to the beat), and 3) the rhyme pattern and meter (let's just call it the flow) is so hip hop. the perfect confluence of hip hop soul. please don't call it neo soul.

and lastly, hip hop and jay-z. let's discuss. so far, i've heard (as we all have, thanks to hype and payola) jigga's "show me what you got" and i also have the title track "kingdom come" from jay's return from "retirement".

Zzzz.... anybody who knows me knows that i am a fanatic for all things jiggaman, but all i can say is, "u came outta retirement for this?" the beauty pageant wave has GOT to go. and the most annoying line thus far is from "Kingdom Come":

"...F--- Cristal, so they ask me what we drinkin/I thought dude's
remark was rude, ok?/So I moved on to Dom Cuvee Rose/ and it's much bigger
issues in the world, i know/ but i first had to take care of the world i know!/
i'm from the bottom/ so i still feel i'm from the bottom/ underdog, pull my
cape, still couldn't stop him..."

now i have nothing to say about the flow. it's ridiculous. and ending each verse with the superhero allusions has dashes--just dashes--of genius in it. but c'mon, hov. (for those who want a brief background, the owners have Cristal said something a while back about how they didn't like rappers glorifying their champagne basically cuz it cheapens their brand...they said this AFTER they profited from the effects of rappers screaming "cristal" in all their songs and making the overpriced grape juice a household name. basically, rappers oversaturated the market with their references to a drink they probably never tasted, if they even knew what the bottle looked like. Jay took offense, so he figured he'd champion Dom Perignon's Cuvee Rose Champagne, another overpriced bottle of grape juice, instead to spite the makers of Cristal. I guess he thought their feelings would be hurt.)

Call me an idiot, but if that happened to me, i would realize that in a couple years, Dom P is gonna be on the same tip as Cristal, "too many niggers know about us and are buying our top-shelf liquor" and kick homeboy to the curb. will Jay ever stop the endless quest of self-promotion and product placement and realize that though he can buy his way into the world of the white elite, his money cannot and will not keep them from kicking him to the curb whenever they feel it necessary? Since u realize that "there are much bigger issues in the world," how bout u use ur talent to address those, especially if ur "from the bottom"? Shouldn't that be "the world i know" instead of the decadent baller extravaganza of a video with Danica Patrick and Dale Earnhardt in Monaco? I mean, really, when's the last time u seen either of them--or a 40 ft yacht--in the 'hood (the real hood, not the rap hood)?

i just remembered that i have a paper to write that was due last tuesday... grr.

-Mr Garr
kris WU TANG

For those who want to see the wu-tang

Friday, October 20, 2006

"make time to live a little" -John Legend

Today was prolly one of the funnest days I've had teaching thus far. It's not like my kids were on their P's and Q's all day. I had one boy suspended before he even crossed the threshold into my classroom, the same kid and another student pushed each other's desks over and kicked them across the floor, there was constant cussing, arguments over who liked who and "I want my money" (what that was all about, i still don't know). Still, I had a great day.

Why? you ask.


For those not familiar with the Philadelphia phenomenon, the Wu-tang is not the 9 member clan of Staten Island emcees whose 36 chambers helped to revolutionize rap and bring hip-hop back to New York City. No. In Philly, the Wu-tang is a dance. It's a dance done to house music (or club music or Baltimore club music, whatever the phreak u wanna call it, it's all the same). It's raw, high energy and is hard to describe and even harder to demonstrate. That said, kids do the Wu-tang all the time here. While it's not so bad at Tilden as i've heard it is at other schools (where whole classes of students battle each other in the halls in lieu of actually going to class), you'd still be hard pressed to go through a day without seeing a kid doing the Wu-tang down the hall or even from their desk.

Anyway, I can do a little bit of the Wu-tang. Granted, I'm not from philly and i'm a dork, i could prolly hold my own with a group of 20-somethings (even though watching a 20somethings do the wu-tang is about as equally ridiculous as watching a 20something do the chicken noodle soup dance--which, in case u didn't realize, is ludricrously ridiculous). So today during reading, while my kids were working on personification, i snuck in little bits of the Wu-tang as i walked around the classroom looking for things in the pig sty known as room 401. Sy-yah was the first to notice and whisper to her table "Yo, i just seen mr garr doing the wu-tang!" as word spread in the classroom and as class neared a close, my kids begged me to do the wu-tang for them. i had already decided that i was doing the Wu-tang during math for my regular class (my reading class is different from my regular class--they're smart). I figured it would keep my regular class' attention and at least shut them up so the 7 to 8 kids who actually try to pay attention could learn something. but i actually like my reading class. i also do things with them that i would never do with my regular class for fun cuz it makes my regular class mad.

so as my reading class packed up to get ready to go back to their regular teachers, they crowded around me, wide-eyed with their hands up and their knees bent as though they were waiting to battle me at the wu-tang. admittedly, i was nervous. i'm always nervous when i'm put on the spot to do something. but i was like, who cares? they're 11 and 12 year olds. So i did it. was it good? heck nah! was it decent tho? yeah man! and my kids laughed at me and i laughed, and as my regular, clinically insane class filed back into my classroom, all they could say was "Mr garr u did the wu-tang?!" "why u always do fun stuff with ur reading class?!" "Mr. garr, u joe!" ("Joe" - adjective meaning "lame" especially when putting on a front).

Now, how could all of 7 seconds doing the wu-tang make my day great?
I smiled.

sadly, for the month and some change that i've been teaching, i don't smile when i wake up, i don't smile when i get on the trolley, and definitely not when i get off at 66th and Elmwood. Each morning it takes me hours to get out the bed (literally). I've become a bitter cynic. My laughter is always sardonic, never jolly. Life as a teacher in the "Belly of the Beast" has not brought joy in my life. its filled with the most depressing and bleakest images everyday to a point that makes quitting the smartest decision.

But today I looked at my kids and saw children. I saw smiles. I saw people. not the "monsters" as Mr. Brown called them the day before school started when it was just me and him on the elevator. When he called the kids "monsters," i thought "these r the teachers u hear about. this is why i joined TFA." that was when i was ignorant, arrogant, and naive. Quickly, i learned why, and quickly i looked at my students as monsters too. They wouldn't listen, they destroyed anything they could get their hands on, they tried to get their hands on everything, and, as far as they were concerned, they could care less about "learning". They were crazy.

Did a simple dance change that outlook? Heck nah. My kids are monsters. They do the same things they did before. My Wu-tang did not make them want to learn any more than anything i had ever done before. But my kids are lovable monsters. They're human monsters, if that's possible. I guess, what I'm saying is, they're as normal as they can be, which, really, is pretty normal. (I write with far too many subjunctive clauses and interjectory statements).

So when math started and I started to sneak in the wu-tang when students stopped paying attention, i got to laugh and so did my kids who were paying attention. We actually covered two parts of one section of estimation with decimals in the midst of yelling, toppling desks, paper balls, 5 second boxing matches, laps around the room, and overall chaos. I think some kids learned. I was able to begin to differentiate for my super-smart girl Vernisha. Rugeiatu didn't throw nearly as many temper tantrums. Kids had their math books open and most were actually attempting the problems. It was still noisy, the room was an absolute mess and I still had to hold the class for a brief detention, but i smiled at the end of the day. Derrick, my cracked-out student who went home one night and made paper guns and paper fingers to sell at school the next day--and kids actually paid him for them--had his book open. He tried a couple problems, he wasnt breaking pens open and using the ink to draw on his desk. He even stood politely to take a picture before he left. It was surreal.

It's weird to think i learned all this from doing the Wu-tang. and really, i know it was a culmination of a number of different things that resulted in this epiphany, but today i came closer to being the teacher that commanded respect rather than one who demands respect.

And that's not purely semantics; we'll leave it at that. 8-)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

"These kids are a different breed. I've worked all through Philly. Spent time in North Philly, but they're nothing compared to this. Up there you could at least talk to a kid."

-The fat black man that works at the visitor/tardy desk in Tilden.
Its been about a month since I've started teaching, and I can honestly say that Institute--our so-called "5-week intensive training"--was a bust. Standing in front of 6 4th graders for 45 minutes a day does not compare to the craziness of 7 hours at Tilden Middle School. For one, something demonic happens to children between 4th and 6th grade. Those who check my facebook profile have seen only a mere fraction of my experience. In a month of school, we have yet to even open our Social Studies book, we have stalled at the 3rd lesson in chapter 1 in Math; Reading equals naptime for many; and Science? What science?; In the words of my comrade, Ms. Lyon, "Do you ever feel like you're the achievement gap?"

Yes, Ms. Lyon. Everyday.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

It's thursday night and i should be writing the quizzes/lesson planning for tomorrow or even cooking myself a lunch for tomorrow, but i'm trifling. Either way, this is a new chapter in the life of Mr. Garr. 5am mornings, midnight bedtimes and all the chaos that occurs between the two. It's the beginning of Ancient World History, 5 paragraph essays, Success for All, Think-Pair-Share, SWBAT, Rubric Rows, Beginning Proficiency to Advanced Prociency, Big Goals, Core Values, Classroom Management, and, oh, teaching. I can't say what these next 22 months have in store for me, but the last 2 and a half weeks have tried me in ways unimaginable. Tilden middle school has about 70 Math books for the entire 8th grade. That's because last year's 8th graders thought it was funny to toss books out the windows. The 7th graders thought it was funny too so they followed suit. The first day of school is not necessarily the first day you come to school. Tilden, where even 8th graders have to walk in straight lines from one class to another. Last year, one teacher couldn't write on the chalk board b/c every time she turned her back, students started throwing things at her. One girl chased her teacher and spit in his mouth. And of course, there's the infamous incident when a parent punched a teacher dead in her face at Field Day in the park nearby...

This is the world I've stepped into. The corner of 66th and Elmwood. Southwest Philly. Fiends roaming the streets and street pharmacists chillin in Chillin Pizza waiting to fill prescriptions. The 36 trolley. It's the real hood; not the rap hood. The city where the skinny niggas die.


(walk with me)