Saturday, August 27, 2011

Rainy days... y posiblemente una riada.

My first year in Spain I was in Barcelona.  I arrived on a Sunday in August, which as anyone who knows Spain knows, meant complete and total emptiness.  It was hot and everything seemed closed.  As I got to know the city day by day, the weeks went on and all of the sudden, summer was over.  How did I know? The rain.  It rained and rained and rained, my roommates told me "This is how summer begins and ends, rain."

Fast forward 7 years (holy cow!) and now I'm in Brooklyn, hours away from riding out my first hurricane (say what?!).'s true. Those nearest and dearest to me are here, with snacks and brownie mix and enough fluids to keep us hydrated until Monday at least.  (Although José at the bodega downstairs swears they'll be open tomorrow. "Estaremos aqui, te juro." Ok José).

While in Spain over the summer, I learned a new word (let's be real, I learned more than one new word) that seems especially fitting for this weekend: riada, flood in English.  I was staying in Valencia, a city that in 1957 was severely affected by a flood, there are still markers around the city showing how high the flood waters rose. The river flooded and the city decided to divert the river outside of the city center in order to avoid future devastation.  The result? An amazing garden and park area.  In Valencia I spent many an afternoon (well as many as I could reasonably fit into 2.5 weeks) enjoying the park. 

While I'm not expecting much destruction or devastation here (it's better to be safe than sorry though, bravo Mr. Bloomberg) neither am I expecting anything amazing or beautiful to emerge from these rains.  Well, perhaps this scarf that I'm working on will be fantastic. (Pictures to follow?)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"I got 99 problems..."

With the severe cuts to budgets across the country I imagine school districts everywhere are feeling these lyrics.  Not only dealing with all of the back to school stress, potentially new test taking legislation, hiring to replace teachers not returning after the summer, but doing that with hundreds of thousands slashed from your budget.

Wow.  I can't imagine.

Actually, I have a bit of insight.

Before I left for Spain I was part of my school's "Budget and Hiring Committee".  Now, I'm not really a committee joiner, but i wanted to support one of my good friends who just became our union chapter leader.  So, I spent two early days of summer, sitting through interviews and having very stressful budget conversations.  Talk about feeling like a number.  Rather, a 5 digit price, cost, expense, what have you.  While I imagine some administrators would take pause before slashing careers, mine did not.  I saw my friends (who because of last in first out were the first to go) get slashed.

 "We can get rid of 1 English and 1 History."

 No one dared use names, I bet that made it easier.

 "That will give us $140,000."

While we "get" $140,000, we are also "getting" classes maxed out at 34 students, and providing fewer elective options for students.

It's really no wonder schools across the United States (most recently South Dakota) are slashing their expenses by cutting their school week to 4 days.  Although our school mission statement states something along the lines of providing each student a full program of the core subjects all four years, many juniors and seniors in the past couple years have left after taking 3 or 4 classes.  This was of course a budgeting strategy.    I'm thinking why have kids in so few classes 5 days a week, when we can fill their programs and keep them there for 4.  Perhaps instead of offering night school for credit recovery, have kids come in on Fridays instead.  (A three day weekend would be even more incentive to pass the first time).

Either way something needs to change, our budgets are likely to keep shrinking, and there are only so many kids you can stick in a room and still have learning happen.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Back to Reality...

I'm baaaack!!! I am back this week after a wonderful 4.5 weeks traveling Spain.  I was selected to participate in a National Endowment for the Humanities summer seminar for TEACHERS. (Yes teachers, these programs are for us! Peep out Summer 2011 offerings here.)  My seminar covered Islamic Iberia which you may have guessed, meant travel to the beautiful region of Andalucia!  I met lots of great teachers, learned tons about the Islamic influence in Spain, drank many a tinto de verano, and took lots of pictures.  And I got a little tan too.

The wife of one of my colleagues at work gave me this book before I left, because part of it is set in the Alhambra, one of the sites I was going to visit.  

The Constant Princess (Boleyn)It was so good!  I've never read anything by Phillipa Gregory before, I think I'm quite a fan now.

What have you all been reading this summer?