Wednesday, November 22, 2006
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
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.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
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
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
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
Saturday, November 04, 2006
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."
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
This was the menu of Chillin Pizza. Notice the slogan:
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
"Every step you take, they remind you you ghetto...Now the question is is toListening 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.
have had and lost better than not having at all?"
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
*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.