Friday, December 14, 2007

The Gift of Entertainment

Often my blogs are inspired by class reflection work or emails, and this is no different. This email was sent today from me to a select few. But why limit it? 'Tis the season for giving, after all...

I very rarely push my TV show preferences onto others, but I truly feel that I would be doing you all a disservice if I didn't tell you about this new reality show on CW (Channel 11 for you New Yorkers) called "Crowned: The Mother of all Pageants."

This show features mother/daughter teams competing to win a lot of money, looking for the modern beauty which is not just a pretty face, yada yada yada.

Whatever. It's 10 teams of mostly pageant-y plastic mothers and daughters (some are not evil and conniving, though plenty are) living together and competing. After watching the first episode I can only say that it will be the entertainment high point of MY new year, and I'm sure yours, as well, if you watch. It's catty, it's bitchy, it's sweet, it's pageants, people! (AND great for mothers and daughters to watch together!)

(The show premiered this past Wednesday, but they are repeating the premiere this coming Tuesday (I think) and then the regular episodes are on Wednesdays at 8pm.)

Happy Holidays (and happy cat-fighting),

Friday, December 7, 2007

Friday Friday Friday!


Our homeroom hosted the 8th grade breakfast today. There's one every month. We eat, we announce the Student of the Month. We miss first period. It's fun. Lots of cutting bagels and smearing on cream cheese. Also lots of explaining the concept of "whipped" cream cheese to skeptical students. It was a successful breakfast.
(Personal note - when I'm cutting bagels and laying out donut holes I can't feel more like I'm being prepped for having my own children by simply being a teacher and doing things that are not what you would consider "teaching.")

Thought my ELA class, which was the 90 minutes following the breakfast, would be a disaster since students were riding the donut sugar high, but it was great. We did test prep (gotta love those Kaplan books!) and began our class novel for Response to Literature, Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff. I'm not a huge fan of the book, but it's realistic fiction about a 14 year old girl who babysits for two young children of a 17 year old mother, and the kids love it. It's written in verse (for some reason - if anyone knows please pass on your info!) and there's a ton of figurative language, and the kids love to identify personification, metaphors and similes, so it's a lot of fun.

Everything else went quite smoothly. One of my favorite students to love AND hate has made it her life's work to be crowned December's Student of the Month at next month's breakfast (where one is named each month). So, she's officially on her best behavior, and ROCKED our ELA class today. Hardly talked out of turn or chatted with friends, and did a beautiful and dynamic read aloud with lots of expression.
Oh, and she feels similar love/hate feelings about me, as well. She loves to ask me about my personal life, why don't we have children yet, what's my natural hair color, and what female products I prefer (it was actually relevant - it was a time when all boys were taken downstairs and I declared it "just us girls" and distributed feminine hygiene products).

She also loves to use our personal writing homework assignments as a way to express her anger with me. She has done this on several occasions, some more obvious than others. A letter to her grandmother was a thinly veiled shot at me, where she states her love for her classes except ELA because "I don't like the class or the teacher." The most obvious lashing out being a response to the prompt "What makes you really mad? Use examples to support your anger" where she states that I, Ms. S., make her mad and one reason is that I insist on "saying hello to me every morning even though she knows I hate her!"

Hey, whatever, she's writing, right? And doing a pretty good job of supporting her hatred. I'd kinda hate me, too!

So, as I'm walking the students down the stairs to lunch today, this student says, "You know, Ms. S.," (yes, she's talking to me, because despite her "hatred" of me, she walks next to me all the time) "This has been a good day. Normally by this time on a Friday I'd be hating you by now!"
"Yes, you know what?" I asked. "This has been a good day for me, too! Do you think those things are connected?"
"Hm. May-be."

Um, yeah. I think they are.

Here's to a good day!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Holidays Already?!

Well, well, it has certainly been a while. Sorry about that! In case I hadn't said this before, this teaching gig's a total burn out sometimes. Meaning, me. I'm burned out. Or perhaps it's just fatigue. Whatever, time is fllllyyyyyyying and it's nearly Christmas. However, the calendar in my mind is already at the end of January, since that's the end of my current unit (not to mention a couple weeks after the ELA State Exam, which is the big fish on the radar right now). Isn't it remarkable how that works! It's strange, how planning actually makes these days I'm going through now seem quite unreal. In fact, I've felt very dreamlike since September. This dreamlike state exists now more than ever, especially because I've gotten past my phase of coming home on Mondays crying and feeling hopeless about the week of teaching ahead of me, and now that I've finally gotten it through my head that Wednesdays are great days for quiet independent reading and any other quiet work, since that's the after-lunch class that would otherwise lose their minds, be rude and make me just want to never return. These are obstacles I've worked my way through, and have only made me smarter (about lesson plans) and stronger (no more crying!!).

This past Thursday our school had a big celebration because we got a good grade on our report card from the city. We held an assembly where a documentary about our school was shown, and then a big potluck for all our students and their families. It was great. The auditorium was packed, there was so much happiness and support, it was really cool. The COOLEST and BEST thing, though, was the documentary. Our literacy coach spent several weeks interviewing students and getting their views of the school, as well as them thanking teachers and saying what is so great about the teacher they thanked. A student thanked me! And the student himself was a surprise - a very talkative but popular boy who I really like, but have given a lot of trouble (for the trouble he causes by talking). But there he was, in front of everyone, saying "I want to thank Ms. Spacek" and though the sound made it pretty hard to hear, it sounded like he said I helped push him to read more and learn how to explain what he was reading better (Literary Letters!!). Anyway, it was awesome - I'm pretty tough and I was surprised any student would thank me, but it happened and I nearly cried. It was great!!!

More soon, I promise!!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Control-freaks, fickle, mean, insane. These are the kids I know, I know.

Yes, I'll admit it. I don't care. This is my weekly reflection for my Pace University class. I'm double-dutying it. That's right. Who are you to tell me I can't? (Oh, wait, sorry, you weren't judging me and responding like a mean and rude 8th grader? Oops! Sorry!)

In response to the topic "What I have learned about my students":

Control-freaks, fickle, mean, insane. These are the kids I know.

Okay. I follow the "No Personal Attacks*" world of thought. Hell, I am a product of that world. I introduced it to my students, we brainstormed what it means, we discussed how to start a comment/response to someone else respectfully... I've followed through, we still refer to it. But...

In my Advisory class I have 12 students, half are rude, mean, cruel and talkative, so the other half are unfortunately bored out of their minds because the RMCT kids get all the attention since I'm constantly reprimanding them. We've had four meetings so far, attempting to build trust and all that, to make it a safe place to talk about real life issues, etc., thus "No Personal Attacks."

There I am at the beginning of our first class, I'm expecting things to go smoothly, everyone to be warm and cuddly and teddy bears and nice and caring, kids will open up, which will allow other kids to open up; maybe some Barbara Walters interview-type crying, followed by young-adult revelations of what it takes to be a great person in this world, no doubt ending with "I love you, Ms. S-" "You're the best teacher!" "Three cheers for the greatest teacher in the school!". . . no.

That's not what happens. It's "Shut up" "No, you shut up" "Stupid" "You're stupid" "You're a dummy" "Shut up" "Quarter Ho" (that might have been "Corner Ho" - not sure), and so on. I'm yelling for quiet, and thus the chaos only gets livelier. Drama.

So. Today, I assigned seats. I let the kids complain, in a one at a time discussion, about why they think I've declared "no laughing" in Advisory. I try to explain that I want laughter, but when it's appropriate. So on. . . and on. . . and on. . . and on (did I mention they are all big talkers?).

Finally, I asked them what their best memories of Advisory in past years are. They got into it. They shared. I heard about wonderful games, trips, stories; great memories with other teachers. They told me I should talk to these great other teachers and get advice, and also bring in food. I made no promises. They told me about a used condom in the recess yard. I let them laugh uncontrollably for 10 seconds. They got to finish off the period telling "funny" stories about crazy people on the subway. I told them we could end with funny stories in every class (God help us), and next week we're starting with student surveys and talking about trust and they were okay with it.

Essentially, What I have learned about my students is that these kids get into it after we talk it out for a while. They want to be in control. I let them feel like they were. They are still mean to each other even with "NPA" but because they are enjoying the class a little more (because they have the control and can talk about condoms), they are no longer calling each other "Quarter/Corner Ho's" (Hoes? Hos? And I call myself a teacher of English Language Arts!). And that's good enough for me, at least for this week.

*Please have respect for each other**.

**i.e. DON’T BE AN A**H***!

- Don’t say “shut up”
- Don’t call each other names.
- Don’t laugh at each other, especially if it is
a serious conversation.
- Don’t hit each other.
- Don't make fun of each other.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


silence = exhaustion and lesson planning

Friday, September 14, 2007

Week THREE already??

It's true! We're about to enter Week Three. Hooray! I'm not dead! I'm still alive! I have survived!

I met up with my fellow fellers on Wednesday at a Pace-area bar, and it seems like it was pretty unanimous: those kids just don't shut up! That said, I think we're all freaked out and exhausted, but thank goodness it's hitting all of us, and not just one.

I was struck by how much my fellers are juggling. I've felt like I've been drowning all week, and I have only one ELA class that I'm teaching (though I'm also teaching 5 AIS periods a week, multiple library periods that must be determined, Advisory and have at least 3 meetings each week that I must attend). But there are some of my fellers that are doing all that AND teaching three English classes, some different grades to boot. Tough! My respect goes out to them. Right on! You can do it!

I was also struck with sympathy and anger for the fellers that expressed frustration at not being able to offer any kind of punishment, negative reinforcement (hello, detention???), to their students upon incidents of extreme misbehavior. My school is all about detention, and though I've only given one so far this year, to a student who called me a liar (for asking him to stop talking*), I know as a teacher who is striving to control classroom behavior, it's nice knowing that detention is an option. Or calling a parent. These other fellers can't call parents! What is going on here?? I am really surprised by that. I made a point of calling all parents between last week and yesterday, to introduce myself. It was a positive call. And the parents actually did seem to appreciate it. It was a chance to touch base. Many of them expressed thanks at my call, and told me to be sure to call them if there was any concern or too much socializing, one parent said she'd "nip it in the bud." Overall I think it's a great thing to be able to utilize parents in the process, and I would be upset if that was not an option available to me.

Okay, back to planning... working on the Short Story unit now.
I love suggestions, so whether you are a teacher or a regular joe/jane who likes stories, give me some ideas!!

*I'm stealing from another blog, Sassafras Junction, as I refer to this student as a "devil child," but here it goes: DEVIL CHILD! Do you think I don't see you talking, your lips moving, and hear the sound coming from your mouth, when I tell you to be quiet!! I'm not just going to randomly tell you to stop talking if I don't know it's you. But I KNOW it's YOU! You are looking right at me, your mouth is moving and I hear you and then you call me a LIAR??? I DON'T THINK SO! DETENTION!!!! SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!!!!!!!
(feeling much better now, thank you!)

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Color me blue!

I like this template and color scheme much better. Less frantic. Surely this will help me calm down with all my lesson planning, eyeball gouging, etc.

Yes, yes, don't worry, I will fill everyone in on the first week of school. Basically, it was great!

Tuesday: Day 1. All day 8th grade orientation. My partner, Mr. W. and I spent all day on our feet and boy, were we tired after that!

Wednesday: 1st day of normal class schedule for 8th graders. Administered a few writing samples, had my first ELA class at the end of the day. See, I'd been preparing for this all summer. Before this day, I had all my lovely first lesson plans - count 'em, FIVE! - ready, as well as my first two weeks layout of classes. Because I knew that I'd be teaching double periods (90 minutes), my lesson plans were nice and chunky and ready to utilize each minute. Seriously, I had EACH MINUTE planned. But no! Night before regular class schedule, we all get an email that we are having a special Advisory period, 7th period (last period) on Wednesday. Sooo, there goes half my class. And, although I did a clean switch-a-roo of certain elements of the lesson, pushing them into lesson plan #2, the class unfortunately spent a great deal of time trying to figure out who was in whose advisory, and where were they meeting (this consisted of all students talking at once, and me sending a nice girl to my neighbor, Ms. T., and to the AP several times, searching, searching for answers. Alas, I didn't consider that my first "real" class.

Thursday: My first "real" ELA class. Periods 1 & 2, too, so I had control and energy from the start. It was great!! We spent most time on the old "No Personal Attacks" rule (anyone from Urban, or my Pace English fellows group, appreciates what I'm talking about - for more info, email me!), but that was okay. I knew it would take a while. The kids got REALLY into it, and finally, when it came down to the old fist-to-five assessment, the fewest fingers I got was FOUR!! RIGHT ON 8C ELA!!
The day was followed by a staff happy-hour that was a rollicking good time. Unfortunately, when I left I was a little tipsy and just knew I should have used the bathroom once more, because of course I realized that before I got on the train to come back to Astoria I had to find UNO cards (and any other easy game) for the field trip the next day (that was one way to entertain the kids while sitting in the park). So, after several trips, I found my (completely overpriced) decks of UNO at Essentials on 81st (or is it 82nd? no matter), and by the by, those nice people let me use their restroom! Thank you Essentials employees!

Friday: When I woke up and checked my email, this is what I got:
"Hi Ms. S-----, This is Tiffany H---, I just want to say thank you for the wonderful class about no personal attack it was a great lesson I will see you on Monday."
YEA!! How nice to wake up to that. It was also really nice that I wasn't feeling the effects of the drinking from the night before, because I've gone on field trips with bad headaches and it is NOT fun. But I was in the clear, and feeling even happier about my whole No Personal Attacks spiel, so all was good.
Went to Dunkin Donuts, bought a truckload of stuff for the kids, went to school, had our breakfast, went to Madison Square Park on 23rd. The kids were not thrilled at all about the art work, and less thrilled about the worksheet they had to complete, but most of the time was spent hanging out on the grass, playing cards and talking. It was nice. It was especially fun when I scared some of the girls telling them that Madison Square Park was originally a Potter's Field, and discussing what that meant (and one lovely child screaming, "So there's dead people under us RIGHT NOW?!?!"). Fun fun fun.

And that, my readers, was the first week. In a nutshell. Now I've been working all weekend to get the grading system together, and lessons for this week (3 DAY WEEK - THANK YOU ROSH HASHANAH!!). Time for wine and "Flight of the Conchords."

Friday, September 7, 2007

An old friend

I found out this afternoon that an old friend of mine passed away yesterday. Although I was never as close to him as I have been to others, his untimely death is incredibly sad and I am so very sorry that it has happened.

Upon ending my sophomore year at high school in NYC, I was asked by the administration to leave that school (since I was never there, cutting class, and thus taking up a spot that could be used by a more deserving child). Frustrated and fed up with my delinquency, I was moved to upstate NY, to New Paltz. I spent the summer there, bored, knowing no one. In September I boarded the school bus on my road, and soon after met Jay. I was a punk rocker freaky kid, 16 years old, and he was a skater freaky kid, in my grade. We hit it off immediately, and after school, on one of those first days, we hung out. He introduced me to his group of friends in NP, and I was welcomed into the fold.

Although I grew closer to some other friends, Jay and I continued to run in the same circle, and were always in the same places, sitting around together and just hanging out.

In January of that junior year of high school, I dropped out. I moved to other places, but as my parents have a house there, and my close friends were there, I continued to visit. For a long time I still spent a lot of time with him and other friends up there. As the years went by and my closer friends moved away, I stopped seeing Jay and others up there; I lost my connection through my close, more permanent friends, who know everyone better than I do. But I still saw Jay when those close friends were in town.

The last time I saw him was last year, at an old bar that we used to all go to. Because I have moved around a lot, I have always been paranoid that people wouldn't remember me as time has passed. But over the last 13 years, including last year's meeting at the bar, Jay always remembered me, and always talked to me like nothing had changed, time had not passed.

Jay was one of the nicest people I think I ever encountered. He was always so nice to me, and friendly and welcoming, always. He was also very funny. I was talking to my husband earlier about Jay. Luckily my husband had met him on several occasions and has experienced some of my fondest and funniest memories of him, which are probably too risque/controversial to write here. But that was one of the best things about Jay, and I'm so truly sorry that I won't be able to experience more of him.


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

First Day down, only how many days to go?

I'm so tired, this is partly taken from my email to my other fellows...

School's fine - It went really well today. We had a day-long orientation for the 8th grade, so my partner and I were with our homeroom the whole day, which is exhausting. I don't know how elementary school teachers do it, with their classes all day (at least, as far as I remember - maybe it's different now?).

But, aside from some kids truly questioning (not nasty or sarcastic, just really curious) the uniform and a rule here or there, it was awesome. Tomorrow I teach my first ELA class. Let's see how it goes!! I have worked on the class website all night, adding homework for the rest of the week. Oh, and don't forget I have my Advisory Field Trip on Friday, so I had to figure out how to get there (with another teacher's help!) and write out a permission slip. Harder than you'd think!! And Thursday is school-wide happy hour, hooray!!

So far, so good. Hooray, new school year! It feels like old times.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Oh, but I forgot to mention...

I sound so calm and together in that last blog, but never fear my friends.... I am....

First Day of School

I am lucky enough to do my first year of teaching at a school that I worked at last year as an Urban Teaching Fellow (not to be confused with the NYC Teaching Fellows, which is what I currently am - I know, I've been around the block, eh?).

I went back to school last Thursday, which was the first "official" day of school. Other teachers had been in since that Monday, but since I'd been told earlier this summer that I wouldn't have my own classroom because I was only teaching one section of ELA (English Language Arts), I didn't rush to get back. Of course, when I went in on Thursday I was informed that I do have my own classroom (the library) and I realized I had better hurry my butt up there to start cleaning and making my room ready for a loving, nurturing and intelligent learning environment.

So, two and a half days later I finally got the library relatively classroom-looking, and I'm feeling fairly confident.

Tomorrow, September 4th, is the first day for the kids. They arrive at 8:00am. I will be at the school when the doors are unlocked, at 7:00am, Starbucks in hand, ready to rev (how do you spell that word??) myself up and start labeling my bins for Writer's Notebooks, etc, which I have yet to do. Then my homeroom partner and I will go downstairs and pick the kids up from the cafeteria and bring them upstairs to homeroom. We will all be together all day, for orientation. We will be doing exciting things: filling out blue cards (contact info), filling out lots of thrilling paperwork, handing out supplies (it's a new thing for my school this year - we are giving supplies to each student for $15. This is to create uniformity and clarity in organization of classwork, etc.), doing "two truths and a lie", playing charades for the school's 12 non-negotiable rules, and all kinds of other housekeeping activities. Should be a blast (really? well, maybe not. we'll see!).

If I'm not an empty shell of myself tomorrow, I will write more and let you all know how it went!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

And then there was Vienna!


First off...
Before I talk about Vienna, I'd like to say, I'm a computer retard. Which means I don't know much of how to do fancy computery things. Despite the fact that I took a basic computer class when I was at Hunter College doing my undergrad. But I just figured out how to link things on this here blog, so get ready people... you're in for excitement. My whole blogging life is suddenly just huge!

Pretty European building


We took the Pendolino from Prague to Vienna early Monday morning and arrived at 12:30. Because of the teaching fellows and exhaustion, I didn't get much of a chance to study up on my German, or do much research in terms of what to see and where to go. Most of my reading took place on the train ride. I relied only on Rick Steves' 2007 Germany/Austria book. That was all we needed. (More on how I adore Rick Steves at a later date.)

We took Rick Steves' self-guided walking tour and tram tour around the city circle. It was beautiful (I still love Prague more, though). Pictures!

St. Stephen's Cathedral

Judenplatz (Jewish Square - memorial)

Painting on the side of a crazy circus tent in a square.

Rick Steves recommends The Palmenhaus for lunch, and so do we! We didn't understand the menu and just ordered. This is what we got.

Herzparadeiser mit Büffelburrata
(Salad of mozzarella, figs, pistachio and what were either some kind of purple chip or fried lavender petals)

Entrecôte Double mit Kräutersalat und Pistazienöl Trüffelcrostini (für 2 Personen)
(Steak with fabulous garlic bread with truffles!)

You can see that these very appetizing plates were quite a relief from what may have been. After we ordered, husband started talking about how maybe Austrians love monkey brains and that was what we would end up being served - you know, Indiana Jones style. I started having anxiety, but then the food arrived and it was all good. Yum!!

Here's a picture of a fantastic old Viennese cafe that Rick Steves says hasn't changed since 1880, including that hat stand you can kind of see in the center of the picture. It's true - this place was classic. I can't remember the name now, but I'll list it when I am able to access it.

Yummy apfelstrudel (applestruden) and topfenstrudel (strudel with sweet cheese and raisins)

This was an amazing gelato dessert named "Mozart" at a gelateria next to the little Danube. This had chocolate and pistachio gelato, chocolate sauce and this amazing stuff I can only describe as pistachio cream, or butter, or something amazing. Oh my god - it was sooooo good.

Vienna, in our 30 hours there, was great, it was very pretty and clean. I didn't find anyone to be particularly nice, but that might be because most of the salespeople and servers that we encountered were all older women, and perhaps they didn't like us young and lively and tattooed tourists. We did have two very nice servers at this biezel (neighborhood restaurant) that we went to for dinner on our one night there, so that was promising. Lots of wine and good food. Forgot the name of that place, also. Oh well. Hooray Vienna! If only I could recreate that Mozart gelato extravaganza, I'd be the happiest tourist in the world.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Prague Blog

We returned from Prague and just now getting back to normal. It's taken four days to come back to reality and realize that school/work starts next week. Exciting/terrifying!!

Prague was great. This is my third time to the Czech Republic. My lovely husband is from Prague, and we stay with his family when we visit. They live right outside of Prague, in Ujezd nad Lesy, (Praha 9 or 21, depending on who you ask...) a train and bus ride away from the center.

Prague is called "the city of a thousand spires" because beautiful spires rise from buildings across the city and can be viewed from afar and are just fabulous. Prague is also amazing because it is untouched by war, yet has survived some major battles and drama over the years, including invasion by Soviet-led Communist troops, as well as the devastating floods of 2002 which God knows killed off a huge animal population in Zoo Praha (that was a very disappointing trip - the family's still trying to convince me to go back), among other damages.

Prague is a magical city, as just about anyone who has been there will attest to, with Prague Castle looming over the shadowy cobblestone streets and architecture that varies between mythical medieval and pastel-colored quaint cottage-y buildings. The same can be said for smaller towns or villages around the Czech Republic, such as Telc, where we took a day trip this year, with hubby's parents. Telc is a national landmark, none of the buildings can be torn down or altered. They are cute, aren't they?
I love the Czech Republic because they paint on their buildings there. No, I don't mean paint their buildings - they paint on their buildings. Often you will see restaurant (restaurace) or pub (pivnice) names and signs painted on the side of an establishment, as opposed to a hanging sign that we Americans are used to. (Often hanging signs are dedicated to the brand of beer - or pivo - they sell, instead.) I'm sure this is common practice in other areas of the world, but I have noticed it most predominantly in CZ, perhaps because I have been there the most. Anyway, not only do those wacky Czechs paint on their buildings to advertise a business, they also like to simply decorate buildings with paint. (See green building picture above.) They like to play mind tricks with us civilians - see the green building picture....along the bottom of the building is what looks like black and white bricks, but no! That is simply an illusion to look like 3-Dimensional bricks and is really just paint. This building is not the best example, I've seen better, more realistic paint-brick-work, but you get what I'm saying.
Anyway, Prague was a blast. The family was great, the homemade appel strudel was lovely, and the beer flowed all nice and crisp and cold and beer-y. For now I can't explain anymore - just go there (before they start using the Euro!) and experience it yourself.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Teaching Fellow Summer Training Graduate

Well. It's over. My 7 weeks that I was dreading so much... the June 2007 summer training for the NYC Teaching Fellows. Today was the last day. Hooray!

Our group was so rockin' - IS so rockin' - that I just love them to pieces. I wrote this in an email to a friend back on 6/23 (training started 6/18), "I've never felt so surrounding by like-minded and really truly intelligent people, with a similar sense of humor. It's a relief." And it's true! They rock!! We are the only English Fellows at Pace, and everyone is so special in their own way. Really, everyone contributes to the whole group in such an important way.

Ok. Enough gushing. But the overall idea is: Good group=good training that is actually not time completely wasted. Yea!

Training is over and now I guess I'm a "real" teacher. We'll see!

Good bye summer training, hello vacation... this time tomorrow i'll be on a plane going to the Czech Republic. Yay, summer!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

One more day...

One more day left to this crazy Teaching Fellows Summer Madness. It's been great. And exhausting. And overwhelming. And highly informative. And slightly scary. But great.

One more day left of AM student teaching and PM meetings at Pace. One more day where I'll have to get lunch, sit in City Hall park. aww. Kinda sad! But then the excitement starts! First, Friday: our skit. With no definite plans, and no rehearsals to date, who knows what will happen. And then, Saturday. Ah, Saturday - Andy and I are out of here for more than 2 weeks, to Prague!

But for now, it's just one more day. The workfolio is done and I can finally focus on something I want - going to start Maus II tonight.

One more day and then summer vacation! One more day and it's the end of the summer training era!

Feeling kind of nostalgic now! Had to get it off my chest.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Teaching Fellow Hell

So tired... have been writing first day(s) lesson plans all day...
must write three more lesson plans tomorrow night....

oh. god. three more days.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Pursuit of Happyness

My family finally gave in to my pleadings on Sunday night to watch "The Pursuit of Happyness," starring Will "Fresh Prince" Smith and his really cute son who has like 4 names. I have wanted to see this movie since it was in the theaters but didn't, probably because I never see movies in theaters anymore (that will be explained at another time).

I don't know why I wanted to see this movie, other than I just like Will Smith. He's been there throughout my life, even though I wasn't the biggest "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" fan. Yeah, I watched it sometimes, but not on a regular basis. Regardless, Will and I have, in a sense, grown up together. Now we're older. He's married, I'm married, we're like old married buddies who remember each other when... when we were up to no good in our neighborhood. You understand.

So I wanted to see this movie and once it passed through the theaters and I missed my chance there, I knew that the best time to see it would be a weekend upstate with the fam.

When watching movies with the fam, it's best to choose lighthearted and easy-to-follow films that don't require silence and intense amounts of thinking. This is because, as anyone who has tried to watch a movie with the fam knows, Harvey falls asleep and awakes throughout the film, insisting that he be updated when he wakens (just to fall right back asleep as soon as the recap has taken time from the rest of us viewers), and Pam just talks...and talks...and talks... (yes, she did study film in school, but we don't always want to discuss symbolism of flowers, especially because its likely we'd figure that out on our own without having to discuss it ad nauseam).

Anyway, I knew that this movie would be good because it wouldn't require us to analyze any scenes, no one had an accent (that confuses Harvey) and because it was clearly a tear-jerker. Those work the best in the realm of the fam, because Harvey cries easily (well, mom and I do, too. Mark however has not cried in two years...) and for some reason the rest of us bond together when watching Harvey cry. It's usually a good time had by all.

On to the movie...

The movie was rough! For anyone who's seen this - my god, how depressing! This poor guy - Chris Gardner - meets bad luck around every corner, from investing poorly into bone density scanners that are ahead of their time and not cost-efficient for the medical offices of the early 1980s, to getting hit by a car on his 10 minute break from his stockbroker internship and, of course, losing his shoe and having to return from said break without it. There's so many other bad things that happen, I wouldn't want to ruin it for anyone. Needless to say, the movie was exactly the tear-jerker we'd hoped for and by the end of it we were all rooting for this man, Chris Gardner, and crying, and so into it that we HAD to google him so we could see a picture of this poor, yet happy, man.

God bless you, Chris Gardner, for your perseverance and your story's Freedman/Tate/Spacek family entertainment value.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Island Restaurant, Astoria

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Andy, my fabulous husband, and I finished up Season 1 of "Top Chef" repeats (We of course have already seen both seasons and are anxiously awaiting Season 3 - June 13th!!) and were definitely in the mood for some good food. Luckily, we'd made plans to FINALLY try Island with some friends.

Island opened about 6 weeks ago and the kitchen is headed up by ex-Top Chef wannabe Josie Smith-Malave. After first reading about the restaurant in TONY Andy and I walked over (it's only 2 blocks away from our apartment) on a Friday afternoon and walked in, wowed by the grand, spacious and open design - poured concrete floors, hanging white fabric and white islandy chairs. Fancy. Islandy. Anyway, they told us they weren't open. Dern. We'd have to wait for another time.

So we waited and waited and finally made plans to dine here. We hoped that any growing pains the new restaurant might have experienced had been ironed out by this time. I searched everywhere trying to find some kind of online menu for the place, or even a real review, and could not. It would be up to us.

We met our friends and walked in. The maitre d' asked where we'd like to sit and we told him it was our first time there, so we were in his hands. (You know, so we could be wooed and wowed so we'd be return customers.) Hmph. We were seated in the back of the restaurant, between the bar and the kitchen/bathroom area. We didn't see that guy again. Thanks a lot, guy.

The menu was confusing. Now, I'm no Einstein of gourmet eateries, but I'm no dummy either. The entrees are listed on the left side of the one page menu, while the "small plates" are listed on the right. And one category of small plates are "nibbles," so we all came to the conclusion that those must be the "smaller" or "smallest" plates. It was all kind of backwards from there. Not to mention, the dishes are just all over the place!

The restaurant is supposed to be Mediterranean yet listed small plates like steak tartare, fries and "Miami" pulled pork sliders. Both of these were ordered, as were salmon tartare and tuna sashimi. The steak tartare was garlicky and good, but Andy and I couldn't taste the truffle oil that supposedly (per the menu) came on the dish. The salmon tartare was fresh and refreshing, with a citrus creme fraiche type of topping. The tuna sashimi was also good, tasting of soy and a range of textures as it was served as chopped tuna atop thinly sliced tuna. Tarshimi anyone? So, all the raw items were yummy, but our friends weren't impressed by the sliders.

The entrees menu was way more limited than the small plates, and felt more restrictive, too. Pizzas, steak or lobster and pasta among choices. Nothing too appealing, to be honest.
Andy and I shared the Lobster Orzutto (something like that) which was lobster and orzo risotto... and $30. A bit pricey for us, but since we shared it it was okay. The dish itself was a lobster tail on top of orzo risotto... basic. Not great, but it was fine. Our friends had the chorizo and carmelized onion pizza. Again, nothing too impressive.

When I was trying to find a review or menu listing for Island, online and in print, all I was able to find was TONY touting that Island "is home to the only four-head Cimbali espresso machine in the U.S." So, we're getting ready to order dessert and I ask the waiter, "so I hear you have the only four-head Cimbali espresso machine in the country. What does that mean?" The waiter first didn't understand me (slurred wine-language? dunno) and so I repeated myself, to which he replied, "uh, I don't know about that... let me go see..." Finally he returned, took our dessert order and informed me that the espresso making person wasn't there, but if I just wanted a cappuccino he could make it.

The dessert was okay, A & I had a panna cotta (and found the truffle oil that was supposed to be on our steak tartare! Quite good, actually.) and Friend C & Friend J shared the chocolate cake with grilled banana and felt the banana was the high point of the dish.

After trying to figure out how to handle the check (at least three items were listed on the check at a different price, though not much different, from the menu listing), we split it down the middle. Our waiter seemed confused when we asked him to do this, stood still and looked at the cards for a minute, went away and finally returned, telling us he made a mistake and put $10 more on one card than the other. Now, J was a waiter, and Andy was certainly a waiter in everything from NYC diners to fancy celeb-attracting restaurants, and we ALL know how easy it is to get the manager to reverse the charge and fix that shit. But no. It was trashy, and gross. And embarrassing.

The service was nothing special. There was no hovering (thank goodness) but there was also something lax about the whole thing. Andy feels it's the whole European-cool thing (don't worry, folks, he's European, he can say that) that makes the waitstaff work extra hard to not impress. Seriously, though, my girlfriend and I were both still eating our food, had food on our plates and were clearly not done when another guy tried to take our food away. What it comes down to is this (a tidbit of info from the postcard served with the check): There's a DJ there on the weekends. it's a damn club! It all made sense now - that's how it's going to survive Astoria, not because of good food or service, but because it's going to fill up with stupid club people who will pay $10-$12 a drink (hey, if you can afford it, god bless ya, but come on!). When faced with the CLUB realization, our appreciation of the place dropped from 0 to -10. Whatever. I just don't like clubs or that culture. Unfortunately I live in Astoria and I'm outnumbered.

Andy summed it up as he and I walked home, "I feel ripped off!" We both agreed that we would not return to Island. The food was not worth the price, nor was the service. Just the week before we'd eaten at Gotham Bar & Grill (a real restaurant! Gotham B&G could totally kick Island's ass any day of the week!) and that meal, like a real good meal, made us forget about spending the money, not to mention, relive the food, decor and service later.
I focus a lot of money, mainly because I don't have much, but I will spend money for good food and good service, and won't think twice about it. And you can have good cheap meals, too, also with exceptional service.

Island offered none of this and was a complete flop. Island, PACK YOUR KNIVES AND GO!!!

Thursday, May 17, 2007


That's right, that's what this 1st ever blog is about.

I'm not saying much more. Just, I'M SO SAD!! What will I watch now? I loved "Veronica Mars." There's something about that show that is great, it's got a deep, dark, seductive, sexy noir feel that I really haven't felt with other shows, and I know other shows.