Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sept. 11. 2010

Sept 10, 2010

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The photos I am including this week concentrate on a one day hike, that Judy and I made up through a village street market, through farmland, up a canyon to some highlands and then I went down a sudden drop down to a jungle canyon with waterfalls. We took a local guide with us to show us the way.

-----Weekly blog 9/11/10: Fremont California

I’m waiting in the hallway of an Oakland school with a reputation for being in a tough neighborhood. It is a few minutes until the end of the class and so I look around –many floor files are cracked, paint is faded - it appeared that there has been little effort to maintain this old school building. Still the hall appears clean and waxed not long ago. In recent years Oakland City has made great efforts to improve public education, and some excellent school programs have begun... but change happens more slowly in some schools.

I am here to meet a Teach for America Intern, someone that I will supervise this semester. When the bell rings the hallway quickly fills with loud teenagers talking, laughing, and jostling on their way to their next class…and I enter the room to meet my teacher. It is his preparation period.

Teach for America attracts some of the brightest and best graduated students from American Colleges to teach academic subjects in inner-city schools like this. It is a very competitive program to get into! They receive intense summer “boot camp” training, in a Los Angeles school, in teaching strategies and class management. Once the year begins they have weekly seminars, an on-site support person, and someone like me to supervise. There can still be culture shock when a young teacher comes from a middle class background and goes to work in the midst of a culture that is so different. After three years working with Teach for America I am genuinely impressed with how effectively bright young teachers can establish trust and communication with kids that have not had many good breaks in their lives. It doesn’t happen instantly and there is not success in every case. It is hard work and I have great respect for each intern. I certainly don’t have all the answers that they need– and when I don’t I generally know where to go to help them find the help that is needed.

I have spent a lot of hours this week making my way through the traffic scrambles of Bay Area freeways – to reach my first introductory meetings with my new teachers. Its always a bit of a game to guess how much time I will need, what traffic conditions will be like, and getting myself to my schools with time to gather my thoughts. I have an impressive group of student teachers and interns this semester! In addition to Teach for America I am also working with student teachers or interns at Mills College and Alliant University. Student teachers work with a master teacher; the interns teach a full schedule of classes. I will start seeing the teachers in action next week. You might ask – Why would I choose to work when I am supposed to be retired? I can only say that I get easily bored – plus- I find this work interesting and fulfilling. There is so much positive energy in the young teachers and in their students. I am working about 20 hours a week…

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sept. 6, 2010

Maasai Photos: Tanzania: At top - click on "slideshow"

The apples were still cool from the night and wet with dew when I picked them this morning. My favorite variety, Golden Delicious, is still crisp and a bit tart but make tasty applesauce for the winter (Judy prefers pur̩ed sauce and I prefer chunky Рwe make some of both.) We were a bit late for the Gravenstein apples, but we have processed all we can. As I worked there was one curious Scrub Jay that sat very close by on a branch and watched me. He is an old friend that has hung around all summer Рwith little apparent fear. I talk to him and he crooks his head to one side and looks me over.

The school year is falling into place. I will be working half time with a variety of student teachers and interns to supervise. I will be travelling from Berkeley to Hayward… never more than two visits in a day… leaving time for other projects. It is a daunting thing for a new teacher to take responsibility for teaching Biology to 32 tenth graders! It takes planning, audacity, and courage. I tell my student teachers that it is normal to start with an “imposters complex” to stand in front of the students and feel certain that all the students know that you aren’t really a teacher. But I tell them that at first it is like play-acting – they must play the part of the teacher and over a few days time they discover that they function quite well in that role.

Late summer – I prune back my shrubs before cold weather, collect all the cuttings and feed them into my “chipper”. It is so satisfying to see the big pile of nuisance branches turned into valuable mulch. I scoop all the chips into a big pile and the next morning the internal temperature is too hot to touch. The bacteria have started digesting any remaining sugars as they begin the break down process. If my pile should be allowed to get too large, spontaneous combustion might occur! If there are stray weed seeds mixed it they will get cooked and unable to germinate. When cool, the nutrients will go back into the garden, either mixed into the soil or as a top layer to prevent drying.

We have been home 9 days and our jet lag is pretty much gone – I am now sleeping until 6 AM – almost normal. We must take anti- malaria medicine one more week. Its only negative side effect if that it gives me very intense dreams – not unpleasant ones – but dreams with a strong degree of presence.