The afterschool program I head up is making a movie of a book about a yellow fever outbreak in 1793 Philadelphia.
It is easily the most fun and successful project we have done as a program this year; maybe the last few years.
I had 6th grade students asking if they could play dress-up when we were done shooting, an 8th grader serving as a fairly competent script supervisor/wardrobe mistress/makeup artist, and all “graders” cheerfully helping each other out, coming up with funny bits, and enthusiastically sharing gorey details about how yellow fever could kill you.
A huge and heartfelt thanks to the citizens of turn of the 19th century Philadelphia who had to horribly die to make my students so blooming happy!
ME: There are lots of aggravating things about life, kid. You won’t always be able to avoid them.
MIDDLE SCHOOL KID: Yeah, but you got that sparkly water in here and now I’m addicted to it.
Perrier: nature’s anti-anxiety beverage.
I am an accidental, fake teacher. I REALLY teach things, don’t get me wrong. But I teach on the fringes of Traditional Educationland, in the the Paintbrush Marshes and Theatre Thickets of non-profit arts education. I went to school to be a filmmaker/screenwriter, and while I am wildly famous for creating The Next Harry Potter, I keep myself real by working with, and for, The Children. I don’t hold special certification, I have no teaching certificate or degree, and when I eat snacks provided on Staff Appreciation Days I feel guiltier about not having a bonafide CPS ID than I do for stuffing multiple sugar carbs down my gob.
Still, I have worked in arts education in Chicago for the last 6 years. Now I run an afterschool program on Chicago’s Northwest side. I work with some of the best friends I’ve ever known, who just so happen to also be hyper-creative accidental fake teachers.
And while I am still struggling with the finer points of my next runaway box office hit*, I feel very lucky to have a job that allows me to work with such funny, intelligent, creative people- and the equally creative and dedicated badasses who fake-teach them along with me.
Also-this blog used to be my writing blog and I called it The Girl Detectiverie.
I’m an artist. I do what I want.
*think live-action Magic Schoolbus starring me as Ms Frizzle and Jason Schwartzman as the lizard.
SMARTASS THIRD GRADER: So basically, you’re saying it costs ninety-nine cents.
ME: Basically, I was going for a cheap joke.
Say what you will about capitalism, but the free market is cute when it is made of construction paper and played for keeps in a school cafeteria by 4th grade girls!
ME, to CHILD: Tater tots are my takis.
CHILD: *nods knowingly.*
OFT-BULLIED 7TH GRADER: I need to study Math Facts! I do not know Math Facts!
ME: Do you have your math book so we can study?
OFT-BULLIED 7TH GRADER: No! I need. To study. MATH FACTS!!!
ME: How do you want to do that? Do you want to look at your book?
OFT-BULLIED 7TH GRADER: YOU ARE CONFUSING ME!
OFT-BULLIED 8TH GRADER: I think I may help in this predicament. Last year, I was almost failing math. But then I studied my math, and now I am not failing. May I help you?
*kid holds up graham cracker square inches from my nose*
ME: No thanks, pal. I’m good.
SWEET INTENSE KID: No. This is a gra-ham cracker. It is good. It is honey. You eat it.
ME: Okay. Okay.
SWEET INTENSE KID: I see you are eating fish sticks and tator tots.
ME: Yes…would you like some?
SWEET INTENSE KID: No. Eat the graham cracker!
Here is the story:
There was a big mess.
There was a big strike.
There was a big silly smackdown and vilification of people we saddle with our greatest hopes, wildest dreams, and cutest/snottiest children for 7 hours a day.
And then the strike was over, and there was still a big mess but now ALSO…
I am looking for one of my program’s subcontracting instructor’s missing timesheets, and just searched my email for the above phrase.
My brain instantly produced the image of a keep in a kingdom not unlike those in Game of Thrones.
This is how deep in I am.
I don’t know that I can even reccomend these books to other people, because I am so deep in that I conjure references to the series OUT OF OUTLOOK INBOX SEARCHES.
Trust nothing I say. From now on I will reside in the high towers of White October, a garrison of wolves and wights guarding my doorstep.
So much has changed, blogz.
I no longer cobble together a poverty-line living teaching The Children.
I’m a *gasp, whoa there, gasp* Manager of People Who Teach Children Things After School Who Receives A Salary and HEALTH BENEFITS.
I by turns have never been more thrillingly challenged or miserably frustrated by a job. It is a cool job. It is a ridiculous job. It is a job that requires me to do more bureaucratic BS than I thought humanly possible, and to deliver more rousing speeches to school-age children while they stuff their gobs with baloney sandwiches than I thought humanly possible. I like the rousing part the most. Not so much the baloney.
Working this thing has taught me so much, one of the most important things being…I want to be a real teacher. With a real classroom. It’s blood-pumping to know that now, about myself, and heart-leadening to wrap my head around getting there from here. I have a loathing for the chaotic randomness of this earthly life, a serious addiction to control and proof, and do myself no favors when it comes to self-buoying or trust. How will I ever get where I want to be, when I am my own worst enemy?
The answer is BLOODSPORT.
Fencing: the fancypants bloodsport, to be exact. I’ve started fencing with some of my non-poverty-line Cash Money and I love it like Inigo Montoya loved his poor dead poppa. As someone whose previous athletic high point was hitting my head on a footlocker after slipping on the deck during a boys varsity swim meet in high school, it is pretty mind-blowing to suddenly be commended on my COORDINATION.
I wish I could say that in a brief matter of weeks I went from mess to maestro. Nope. But in a brief matter of weeks, I’ve gone from self-identified bumbling buttered mess to pretty decent beginner. I’ve taken the baby steps. Scampered about a stinky gym in a squatty en garde position. Taken a hit to the swimsuit area. Almost won a bout. GIVEN a hit to the swimsuit area.
At this point, the world is pretty much forcing me to realize anything is possible if you work your be-spandex’d ass off at it. Teaching, fencing, making of stuff. It takes work and getting out of your own head. It takes dedication. It takes letting go of a quest for complete control, acceptance of The Random, and putting wind in your own sails. Stabbing a few peeps, but not drawing blood.
While instinct and compulsive Game of Thrones viewing may tell you that a sword is best wielded with brute strength and bulging arms, fencing weapons are powered by the strength in your fingertips and forearm. It is a delicate balance to strike: relaxed torso and shoulder, powerful position, graceful grip. An ideal grip is more akin to a painter’s on their brush. The more likely grip, at least for beginners, is a choke-hold fueled by thoughts of control. If I hold onto this thing hard enough, no one will stand in my way! I shall sink my staff into the flesh of villains and direwolves alike! Call me destroyer! Crusher! Iceblade, bringer of DA PAIN!
The surly Bulgarian former Olympic fencing champion Coach makes mincemeat of these automatic, incorrect thoughts. “You want to hold your weapon like a little bird,” he says. “You want to hold the bird, not kill it.” He demonstrates the proper grip: powerful but relaxed, graceful in its self-trust. Then he plunges the point of the blade into the wall mat with a lightning-fast, satisfying slap.
He pauses for a second, thoughtfully swirling a toothpick around his mouth before adding:
"You like this little bird."
I am a huge fan of Jamie Oliver and well-assigned governnment spending, but it’s interesting to read an article that casts the food activisit/celeb chef as a nannying villain.
If you’ve followed JO at all you know he is doofy and self-righteous, but those very qualities may effect some positive change on the general American attitude toward food.
If you work in schools, you know that what kids eat for lunch is horrifying- and that thinking so doesn’t make you bougie, just a human being with eyes and an understanding that Deep-Fried and Sugar-laden on the daily is less a matter of choice and more a matter of established, seemingly inescapable reality.
I understand negative reactions to spending Taxpayer’s Cashola on big initial re-structuring food program costs, and eye-rollingly understand why some people feel government-funded programs like this shouldn’t exist at all. Still, they do, they always have and in some form always will.
The Food Revolution is televised, and for some that is enough to discredit the ideas it puts forth as a shill for Oliver’s already-sprawling empire. But the ideas are not Oliver’s alone; they are realities that must be faced sooner or later as a country with a long-held complicated relationship with food, freedom, and federal say-so in those matters.
I’ll get off my semi-soapbox now. Interesting read, though: