Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Blue Celebration

Seems like hardly a day goes by when I'm not realizing that something I really like is gone.  It can be as local as that new bakery that opened a few miles from home...the one with the marionberry scones like no other, to a product like soap or a brand of cracker.  Stuff disappears.  They don't make it anymore.  I can see if it's a product that's not selling, but I can't help but feel that someone or something is messing with various goods and services that many folks have come to depend on.
I once wrote a letter to a shampoo manufacturer because they changed the aroma, viscosity, and color of their product.  To no avail.  Seems like it's happening more and more.
Now I realize that this is minor stuff that hardly threatens the existence of civilization as we know it.  I know it's only mildly irritating in the long run.  Other products that I will grow to love will soon be replaced or disappear, no doubt.
That's why I'm going to flip this diatribe and celebrate the long enduring fact that Levis Jeans are, were, and will always be in my life.  I've worn Levis for over 50 years and have no intention of stopping now.  I even went as far as saying that when I retire from full-time teaching I will wear them every day of my life.

Over the years the simple act of wanting and wearing Levis has become more complicated.  In Jr. high and high school there were two kinds, regular blue jeans and then what we called
white Levis."  By my 20s that changed with the introduction of colors, numbers, and corduroy choices.  Today you need to know the difference between 501s and 514s.  Even the sizes vary.  Where once I could go into any story and buy size 34/32 in any variety and not have to try them on in advance, today that's a bit of a gamble.  Still, there is something reassuring about knowing that the Levi Straus company lives on with a fair amount of success.
I must have about 10 pairs of Levis jeans in my closet right now.  Three  of them might as well be retired because of holes worn through.  I keep them for painting rooms, or wearing on evenings I stay at home, or to go fishing and have a back-up.  Another pair isn't my correct size, so it's in the the earthquake kit along with a faded brown pair that once was part of my classroom wardrobe.  I have one new pair, a pair of chords, and three pair of blue jeans that I wear from week to weak.  Oh yeah, there is also a pair of gray Levis I bought for classroom visits when I observe beginning teachers.
All these jeans have distinctive qualities.  I can tell them apart by the color variation, the wear, and the fit.
Sometimes just being comfortable is enough reason to celebrate.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Is It Rolling?

I hate the term.  Every time I hear it it takes me back to the first time I heard it used.  Connotation, I guess that would be called.  Like a specific smell that becomes associated with an emotion or an event, the term "roll out" or more specifically "rolling out," sticks in my craw.
Products are rolled out, Presidential appointees and programs are rolled out, and the latest edition of something...anything... is now "rolled out."
Literally, the image conjures something on wheels.  A curtain opens and Voila! Here it is, our new improved version of something that needed to be rebooted. On wheels.

Oh that meeting...here's the story.
I was once summoned to an English Department meeting where a newly appointed district administrator was going to be introduced and then inform a group of veteran teachers that the curriculum they wrote, created, and lovingly taught and improved for decades was to be scrapped in favor of some new anthology where all the lessons were predetermined and pre written.  Sort of a microwavable way of teaching.  Just take the amount you want, add water and nuke it for 20 seconds. Never mind that that administrator and every other underling in the room had no knowledge of what  these veteran teachers were teaching, or how, or how effective.  Never mind the teaching of whole books,  they were saying, the snippets of classics and classic writers were all here in their fragmented glory and all you have to do is use this newly minted rolled out anthology now and we'll all do the same thing at the same time...district wide.  Great, huh?
Oh Hell No!
That was the conclusion my colleagues and I reached.
We got advance word that this was coming so we entered the meeting with a bit of a chip resting on our tired shoulders.  Then the new Mr. Big was introduced and used the expression.  Reminding or perhaps warning us that he had a PhD from Berkeley and probably knew best what and how we should be teaching, the woman introduced Dr. Big and he began by saying today "we are rolling out the new curriculum that you'll be using from now on."  I don't believe any of us in that room who would be going back to classrooms full of students believed for one moment that they would use the new mandated text and accompanying lessons.
In what would certainly be one of the best rejoinders I've ever heard one of my colleagues, countered, with, "well, I have a PhD from Cal too and I think we should be teaching whole books."
The meeting ended shortly after that.  Hard to tell what people thought, but this I do know.  That administrator and the one who introduced him are nowhere near the district these days.  No, we never used what was rolled out and rolled over us that day.  What followed were a series of student and teacher demonstrations that used a public reading of Fahrenheit 451 to make the point.  I guess we rolled out our reaction...to great effect.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Advanced Composition for Teachers

Mrs. White was Black,
     I, white, loved blues,
She taught me to put rhythm in my prose,
     A dab of Charlie Parker shortened some sentences;
smoothed some edges,

     Mrs. White spoke every syllable,
Nobody said "particular" they way she did,
     Her voice was smooth as a Louis Armstrong solo,
She always called him Louis.

Sometimes we spent extra minutes talking about Billie, or Jean Toomer, or
the Big Bands she saw at the World's Fair

Jimmie Lunceford was her favorite,
     I love how she said Lunceford,
Not ferd but f o r d.  Lunce f o r d,

Mrs. White never lost her sense of humor,
     She understood why black actors played the parts they did,
She saw the power that came from their pain.

We talked about images in the mind... Amos 'N Andy...the TV version
     The massive talent of Tim Moore (Kingfish) was something she placed in front of
her students who were members of the Black Panther Party.
     Mrs. White defied them not to laugh; they smiled then erupted in laughter,
               (she knew they would)
she knew there was real comedy in those forced roles.
     She praised talent,
   She wanted to give credit where it was due,
 to make Black Power part of enduring.