Friday, October 26, 2012

Middle School Student Conversations

On a whim, I accepted a subbing assignment today at a middle school where I'd previously subbed extensively. I haven't been back there since last December, when, for budgetary reasons, I was fired from my position as a teaching assistant. I was a bit apprehensive about going back, since this was the place that was happy to have me there as a sub and a teaching assistant, but didn't hire me for an available English teacher position. I wasn't especially good at the job, and I got the distinct impression that the teacher under whom I worked didn't care for me. I went anyway, and I was glad I did - it was nice to see some familiar faces, and I do enjoy the kids at that school - but I was a bit nervous anyway. 

I like middle school-aged kids a lot: They're at the age where they're still silly, and they're open and curious about many of the adults in their lives. 

Two years ago, when I was subbing in a long-term assignment at the time Ed and I were engaged and planning our wedding, it came out that I was engaged. (The ring kinda gave it away.) Many of the kids, the girls especially, were curious, and the few times Ed would pick me up from school, he'd get spotted. (We had only one car at the time; he was working from home at the time so I took the car, unless he had a meeting or another obligation that necessitated his taking the car, in which case he'd drop me up and pick me up.) The next day I'd hear, "We saw you and your fiancee yesterday!" followed by a giggle.

But they also want desperately to be taken seriously and to figure out how to be adults, and want to know what it takes, and what it's like, to be an adult. They have specific ideas of what being an adult means and encompasses, and they compare their adults in their lives. Yet they lead a sheltered life in many ways. Or rather, some of them do, and others are beginning to see the world beyond their immediate families.

Some time back, one kid at a different school asked me how many kids I had; before I could say a word, another answered that just because I was married didn't mean I had kids. The first kid just couldn't wrap his head around that possibility, and nothing the second kid said could convince the first kid that not all married people had kids. (I said not a word throughout this entire exchange.)

In that student's world, every adult who's married also has kids, and he couldn't fathom a different world. He will, of course, and he wasn't trying to be rude, but since he's surrounded by other kids, at this moment in time it's quite possible that every married adult he's in contact with has several. (Folks here tend to have large families.)

In a simiar vein, I'm reminded of a conversation I had with some middle school kids some time back:

Student #1: [seeing my name written on the board]: Are you married?
Student #2: Of course she is, otherwise she wouldn't have written "Missus" next to her last name.
Student #1: What's your husband's name?
Me: Mister Szetela.
Student #1: .....
Student #2: Hah! What did you THINK she'd say?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

What the World Eats

Yesterday and today I've been attending the TYCA West conference, which, luckily, has been held at SLCC. During the last breakout session, I attended "Inviting Students to the Table: Using a Food Theme to Teach Composition," in which one of the SLCC professors, Charlotte Howe, used food as a theme to teach the English class that I teach (ENGL 1010 - Introduction to Writing). One of the books Howe uses is Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, which illustrates a week's worth of meals families around the world eat, which was used in tandem with an NPR podcast episode that featured an interview with the authors. (She also uses Food, which includes writings from Julia Child and Anthony Bourdain.)

As an example of one of the ways in which the discussion of what people around the world eat, in terms of the particulars of amounts of selection, Howe brought in the food that one family would have been allocated for a day, which included 15 ounces of a cooked version of millet - which she had prepared for the group.

We each got a small sample of the grain, which was interesting.

Her handouts included a syllabus, and she discussed how she had incorporated some of the assignments that, as a department, we are to include (such as the rhetorical analysis).

Monday, October 15, 2012

Greek Orthodox Baptism & In-Laws

This past weekend, Ed and I flew out to Massachusetts for a baptism: his cousin Nick and his wife Nada, who'd gotten married six weeks after Ed and I did, had a baby about six months ago (10 months after getting married). Ed and I - along with my parents and Ed's father, and a slew of other relatives Ed and I had never met before - were invited to the baptism, which was held at Holy Trinity Orthodox Hellenic Orthodox Church.

Ed and I hadn't even known the existance of many of these cousins until our wedding, and it was of course the first time we'd met Nick's wife. (We'd been invited to their wedding, and had planned on going, but Ed's losing his job so soon after our own wedding negated the possibility of travel.)

The ceremony was quite interesting, half in Greek and half in English, and lasted an hour. Ioannis was a bit cranky during the ceremony, which I suspect was held at his normal mid-morning nap time, and of course he howled when he was being chrismed and submerged, as well as when he was being changed into his baptismal clothing. It was a beautiful church (as Greek Orthodox churches tend to be).

Nada was such a nice person, as were many of the relatives Ed and I met for the first time, and Ioannis was absolutely gorgeous.

We had a great lunch after the baptism, after which we all dispersed, exhausted as we all were. Mom, Dad, Ed, and I went out to a pub for a light, late dinner; on Sunday, Mom, Ed, and I went to Mass at an Irish church that was across the street from the Greek Orthodox church, after which we picked up Dad and met Ed's father, Nick, Nada, Ioannis, and Nada's father for lunch at a Greek deli. Ioannis was extremely well-behaved, letting all of us hold him with no fussing. 

From Baby Limberopolous

It was such a happy weekend, a reprieve that Ed and I really needed.