snakes out there this big.

i guess i could've been blogging the past few days instead of doing nothing, but i'm running low on things to say lately. i start work in two weeks, and i'm definitely not ready. i don't think i ever will be. i had my exit interview with sister liane this morning. i'm officially out of the americorps program. we watched the simpsons movie last night. i don't really have anything to say about it.

the past few days we've been sitting around talking about doing something, but nothing ever gets accomplished. meagan and i tried going to big sur yesterday, then to the boardwalk, but all the traffic just sent us back home. it's been disappointing that the last few days in watsonville have been so uneventful. we also had our closing ceremony dinner last night. barely anyone showed up. there was an awkward moment where i thought sister mary, who i see all the time, was going to shake my hand, so i tried to shake hers. idiot.

so, i'm moving back to sacramento and don't really know how i feel about it. it's probably going to be a big step back and i'll probably regret it at some point, but for now i really don't care. i just want to go to miyuki and get a bento box.
jesus liberation.

i stayed up until 4 am last night watching final destination 3 with byron and rich. it was unpleasant. then, at around 8:50 am, i got the call. "hello, is this james tan?" yes. this is james, i said, groggily. "this is mr. rosas. i'd like to offer you the position." i felt shocked, relieved, and sleepy all at once. i must've sounded it, too. "it must've been a long night for you, huh?" he said laughing. i didn't really know if he meant that i sounded dead tired or that he must've thought i had stayed up late anxious about his decision. little did he know i was watching shitty pseudo-horror films on rich's hdtv.

so, yeah. i'm going to be teaching language arts this coming year to 7-12 graders. it's an alternative ed/continuation school called mather youth academy in sacramento. here's the rub: i have to create an entire curriculum for all grade levels for the entire year without the help of any other english teachers. i am the english department. the school has a military component; kids exercise and run drills early in the morning, and then i get them. these are kids who have either missed a lot of credits and need to catch up, got pregnant and need to catch up, or got expelled and need a chance to get back on track. "no one comes here by choice," mr. rosas, the principal, told me.

today i picked up the teacher's edition of the holt handbooks and got the school calendar from mr. rosas. he told me it was a tough decision. "there were three other candidates who were really good," he said. "they had a hell of a lot more experience than you. but," he added, "i think you would be the best fit here." it was a compliment, i think.

it looks like i'll be talking about more hard times. school starts on august 13. i'll tell you all about it.
Dear U.S. Military,

Sorry to have to be the one to tell you, but the American way of life is not worth preserving.



Sincerely,
Me
maybe it's your violent past.

today was absolutely horrendous. the kids were more out of control, more disrespectful than usual. it all happened around break when the kids (jorge, giovanni, esteban, francisco, and earvin) were kicking around a soccer ball in front of the classroom. meagan was reading a magazine and jorge accidentally kicked it so that it rolled onto the table and smacked her in the face. she got really upset, told them they couldn't play ball anymore, but they chose to ignore her and played a couple of yards away instead. i went after them and told them they needed to listen to their teacher. it turned into a game of keep-away for a few seconds until esteban picked up the ball and said, ok. but instead of putting the ball away, they chose again not to listen to me, and picked up where they left off, kicking the ball in front of the classroom. i physically had to grab the ball and put it away for them and scolded them again for not listening. at that point, i told katy what happened and she lectured them outside. when they came back in, they were being loud and disrupting the other students who were taking a final.

at one point, i saw meagan holding her arm out to keep esteban from falling on rebecca. "don't push me like that!" he said. i thought nothing of it, but about twenty minutes later, one of the security guards came up to both of us and told us that esteban claimed that meagan had pushed him. we had to clarify that it wasn't true. meagan was ready to quit then and there.

i really couldn't believe esteban would do something like that, create problems where problems don't exist just out of spite. i always found him annoying, but never vindictive like that. i guess i was wrong. meagan said that today was a day where she feel like she can understand where conservatives come from. that always seems to be the case. you try to do a little good, and it doesn't get you very far.

also, when jorge wouldn't clean up around his desk like i told him to, i got very upset. the kind of wrath i hadn't felt in a while where my eye starts to twitch. and i feel the blood draining from my face. what's wrong with these people? what's wrong with this picture? today glenn said that they shouldn't bother calling it an ELD institute. call it what it really is: a fucking daycare center for little bitch babies. it's just sad that there always is a minority in your classroom who does want to learn and try. and then there's always assholes who want to ruin everything because they're forced to be there. that's why all schooling should be optional. maybe some kids need to work in the fields for a few months, maybe a few years to truly value education. maybe some of us need to hold shitty volunteering positions to realize that getting a real job might actually be a good idea.

but i still believe all work is immoral. i've been trained to think that it's not okay to just sit around and think about what i'd like to do. i've been trained to keep going until every ounce of energy is sucked from my core. it's the american dream.

tomorrow is the last day of summer school. the last day of volunteering. perhaps...forever? stay tuned...
but i'm not a wallflower.



we took the kids on a field trip to the watsonville library today. i tried to get luis to check out the perks of being a wallflower. he looked at it, then handed it back to me. i gave it to joanna. she tried to make a joke out of it. "what are you trying to say? that i'm a wallflower?" i told her i thought she would like it, but she just kept answering back. "i'm not a wallflower." "well, joanna," i said, "not every book i read is about me." "well, that's why i'm reading this magazine. it's about me." kids drive me nuts. so, instead of dealing with them, i pulled out glenn's complete bicycle manual and read some of it. i still don't know how to lower the seat on my bike.

the only great thing that happened today was when the boys didn't want to go inside the art gallery. instead, they sat outside and started playing with rebecca's makeup. esteban curled his eyelashes, shaggy put on some blush, and they put clips in bernard's hair. he looked like such a dazed mexican woman when tey were done that i couldn't stop laughing. then, walking back to school, i called meagan "doggy dog" like i usually do, and then asked her how it translates into spanish. "perrito pero?" "perrito pero," i repeated. veronica laughed and covered her mouth. then she stuck her pinky out and curled it to mimic a little penis. it made me think that "perrito pero" doesn't literally translate into "doggy dog."

at the end of the day, katy yelled at the kids again because they were out of control and giving her attitude all day. shaggy got it the worst. i think he always gets yelled at more than the others because he's darker and he speaks less english. anyway, she yelled at him because she claimed that he threw something at her, even though he said he didn't. he stormed out of the room despite katy calling at him to wait so she could have a word with him. ten seconds later, he returned, not because of katy, but because he needed a ride from meagan and me. it was a pretty ballsy move, and we thought it was funny. we imagined what was going on in his head. "ms. flatley makes me mad. oh, but i really need that ride today. i should go back..."

meagan found a nudey card while we were walking today. luckily, none of the students saw it. it's a picture of a very early 90's looking dude with an erect penis sitting on the beach. meagan taped it to rachel's door.
spraychel.

I've been working out lately, since I got a free guest pass to Body Zone on Rachel's birthday. Two weeks before that, I got a week long guest pass because of Meagan's birthday. So, by working out, I mean running for twenty minutes (if that) and then lifting the bar a little. Sometimes, if I'm feeling ambitious, I'll add two fivers to each end. I can do about twelve, and then my arms give out. It's actually a pretty sad sight. Once, Meagan recommended that I take my shirt off and make grunting sounds when lifting the bar. I didn't take her up on it.

Luis, this chubby kid who reminds me of a Mexican version of myself at 14, asked me if I've seen the previews for the new Simpsons movie. It was a little unexpected since he hardly ever talks, and when he does it's usually only to his friend, Rigoberto. He seemed extra excited to help me bring the lunches to the classroom, too. He told me that he's glad he's at summer school because if he wasn't he'd just be helping his mom at work. "Where does she work?" I asked. "Picking strawberries." Sometimes I feel so bad for these kids I don't know what to do.

While playing Mad Libs the other day, one of the kids suggested "Tempicoloyoe" as a noun, and, like a sucker, I wrote it on the board thinking it was a town in Mexico. Later, realizing I'd been had, I asked Daisy what it meant. "Oh," she said. "It's a bad word. It's so bad I can't even tell you." Wonderful. I imagine it's equivalent to something like a dirty sanchez or maybe a Cleveland steamer. Who knows.

I went to the Migrant Camp today with Meagan and Glenn. Nothing really exciting happened. Meagan showed the girls how to make beads and I helped a kid read. He was already a very good reader, so I didn't really know what to do with him. "So, you like alligators, huh?" One of the girls, Julissa, asked me if I was from "Chee-nah." "No," I said. "Don't you remember what I am?" I didn't expect them to, since I hadn't seen any of them since January, but Perla surprised the hell out of me when she told the girls I was Filipino. It made me happy that someone under the age of ten actually remembered. And didn't follow it up by asking if I knew Manny Pacquio (sp?).

Last night the AmeriCorps group met as a whole for one last time. We exchanged letters and I read out loud my top ten lists for everyone. Some of the titles were: "The Top Ten Reasons Teri Is the Top Chef," "...Why Marisa Is the Ultimate Ba," "...Why Rachel Is Marissa Cooper to My Seth Cohen." It actually went a lot better than I thought it would. See, I can be funny if I want to.

Tracy Unified School District called me to schedule an interview, but I told them I couldn't make it. To be honest, I could've taken part of Thursday off, but I'm just not in the mood anymore. It's going to have to be in the Sacramento area or nothing. I don't feel like living in Fairfield, or Fremont, or San Leandro or some other obscure Northern California town.

Today, Katy told the class "boldness" was an adjective. I corrected it. And during math she said -4 - 6 was 2. "No, it's -10." Sometimes I feel like she's just purposefully making mistakes to see if she can send Meagan or me over the edge. Meagan says that earning a master's in education doesn't prove a damn thing, and Katy's living proof. All they teach you is time management, behavior management, lesson planning, all the other bullshit you'd learn anyway just by doing it.

Meagan and I watched Soul Man this evening. I highly recommend it.
sleeping with a gun under my pillow.

watsonville was less than eighty degrees today. perfect weather. a perfect day for banana fish. meagan wanted to get some clay from beverly fabrics in aptos so that she could show the girls at the migrant camp how to make bracelets on tuesday. i supported it. but man, do i hate fabric stores. i don't mind places like stitches in seattle where all they have is fabric and beads, but i do mind places like michael's, stores that just sell the worst shit you could possibly put in your house. faux flowers, a malleable block to keep your pet's imprints, stupid red hats, the list goes on. i think that's why i love the record stores. nothing but cds and records. maybe some cleaning materials, and okay, dvds and crap, but at least there's no bubble gum, batteries, and vitamin c water. tower would do that and look where it got them. just kidding. they had bigger problems than that. anyway, i guess i'm just tired of being able to whip out the debit card and solve all of my problems in one go. yesterday, par exemplo, i walked a few blocks to buy some sopes from popo's. and as i was walking back, i thought about what i'm losing by not going out to find my own food. we're a culture that's learning that we don't need to learn things. we are no longer the targets and save-marts of the world. each is a one man shop who knows only one thing. okay, i have no idea what the fuck i'm talking about now, so i'll just stop there.

this coming week is the last week of americorps. after friday, i'm free to be as selfish as i please, since i put up with the title of "volunteer" for two full years. that means i'm entitled to not help anyone. i only have to look out for numero uno.

i bought some jeans today. it was the exact same pair i already had on. i felt like i needed to buy something because i've been bored and anxious. i don't know what i'll do if i can't find a teaching position. i should write full time and apply for mfa programs, but i know i'll probably just end up working and living at home. it will be a pathetic sight, and i might need you, dear reader, to rescue me from it.

i feel like i haven't done anything productive in weeks. i try to read things, but i can't concentrate. i've read two katherine anne porter stories, and i liked them a lot, but picking up the book again becomes more and more difficult. maybe my students' hatred of literature and learning are rubbing off on me.

meagan: "i really don't get why they aren't motivated."
me: "well, at 13, 14 years old, all you really care about is getting laid, and maybe getting a burrito."
meagan: "i think that pretty much goes for everyone."
a double-decker pickle.


yesterday was awesome because flatley was out sick. you know it's a bad thing when the teacher's out and the kids learn more than they ever have. meagan taught them math. i gave a lecture on editing a paragraph, and then they did more math than they've done in the past four weeks. the sub, ms. goldstein, who wasn't really a sub, but rather a teacher with a small class, was strict and sent students out when they needed to be sent out. overall, she was the best teacher i've seen in a while. i wish it could've been that way for the rest of summer.

but alas, today, the return of katy. another walk, more pointless drivel, more worksheets with zero explanation. one upside was that we got to do mad libs. "on my first trip to london, i took a ride on a double-decker pickle." meagan and i chuckled like juveniles, surrounded by eld kids who obviously couldn't pick up on the innuendo. sadly, even the native speakers weren't getting it, either. even more obvious ones, phrases like, "a furry snack," "a compartment to store my sausage," or "i was feeling nasty." english is amazing.

then, the kids, as usual, got a little out of hand, and instead of sending them out like any normal teacher would, katy scolded them repeatedly, interrupting every lesson. i offered to take the next disruptive student outside, and force him to run laps. unfortunately, it backfired. "i'll go! me! send me!" esteban pleaded. i didn't know how to explain that the laps were a form of punishment, so i just kept quiet until katy got tired of him and eventually sent him out. outside, esteban asked, "what we doing? push-up?" "no," i said. "you're running laps." "ahh, i don't wanna do," he said, and started heading back toward the classroom. "no, you're coming with me," i commanded. he followed. i was too lazy to walk him all the way over to the field, so i made him run in the quad. "go around all the tables ten times," i instructed. he started running. on the first lap, he ran all the way through, even showing off, running on top of the tables. by lap three he was bored. on the sixth lap, i started taking pictures of him with his camera phone. the titles were in spanish, though, so i didn't know how to save them. on the ninth lap, he said he couldn't do anymore. "next time, you're going to do twenty." "okay," he said. "i'll be quiet."

i still plan on bringing meagan's camera to work tomorrow.
roy g. biv.

i don't know if i've already mentioned this, but those assholes in stockton didn't give me the job. mrs. allen said that they had already hired enough PIT's (an acroynm for uncredentialed teachers), so they couldn't add one more to the list. i felt like screaming into the phone, then why the fuck did you bother interviewing me? why the fuck did i drive out to stockton? why did your stupid piece of shit district send a rep out to the recruitment fair? so now, at this point, i basically have to start from scratch. more searching through job postings, emailing, mailing, phone calls, phone interviews, in-person interviews, visiting school sites, the works. but after working with annoying kids all day, it takes a crapload of energy to want to find a job where i'll be working more hours with probably even more annoying kids. maybe i should just bag it.

meagan said, "if you're going to be poor, you might as well be poor doing something you like." i totally agree. i kind of want to just build a work bench, get some tools, build shit, fix shit, and sell it on craigslist. i'm tired of trying to survive in this capitalist racket. maybe i should just stay at home and write stories all day, everyday, until i get a full-ride at some prestigious mfa program. and even if i never get accepted, at least i can say i was trying. unfortunately, i know what would happen. i'd get distracted. i'd be disappointed. i don't know enough words to be a good writer. and i don't know how to make anything, really. all this capitalist racket of a culture has done is made me feel powerless and empty.
how am i not myself?


the children went on a field trip to cabrillo community college today. joanna, luis, bernard and michael didn't make it. the bus driver looked more asian than mexican. he spoke with a loud, clear voice. "don't stand up or switch seats when the bus is moving," he warned. "stay where you are the whole time." it was clear he had been doing this for a long time. maybe too long. during the ride, the boys kept asking me to lean like a cholo. it's getting really annoying, and i feel really stupid every time i give into it. because i'm so indifferent, i lean like a half-ass cholo. i don't know why they like it so much. meagan explained, "wouldn't you like it if your teacher would do some strange, obscure dance?" i guess i would've liked to see some of my teachers dance back in the day. even now.

the field trip was a disaster. nothing was organized, none of us knew what was going to happen. meagan and i didn't even have a proper roster to call the names of our kids to see who was missing. our group took forever, stopping at every vending machine for hot cheetos (i didn't point out to anyone that it contained MSG...what that says about me, i'm not sure). the kids were indifferent, as usual, always dropping to an eerie silence whenever asked, "are there any questions?" but my favorite is the lazy, halfway raising of the hand when asked, "who here is thinking about going to college?" or even simpler questions, ones they don't really have reason to doubt themselves, such as: "who has a friend or relative in college now?" a hand will go up, then turn into a stretch, a scratching of the back. as if they might have thought it was college, but quickly realized, oh yeah, my older cousin's actually just working at home depot.

after the third session, a little after lunch, someone decided to pull the fire alarm at cabrillo college. unfortunately, i wasn't around to see who did it, but i suspected it was one of mine; specifically, juan. juan had already missed a full week, maybe two, of summer school, had no english skills at all, and often caused trouble in class because i don't think he's had any educational experience at all. i thought of him as candide, being yanked around from one location to another, hearing a language he obviously couldn't understand, and so thus decided to engage in an absurd act and pulled the fire alarm, terminating him from summer school altogether. okay, candide, and then mersault. but the person i felt for was tommy. liz stoll, the summer school director approached him, and for some reason, he told her things he couldn't tell me. then he talked with ms. fisher, the school principal. he looked very solemn and regretful when i asked him afterward what was wrong. i didn't have to be a cop to realize he'd sung like a canary.

class size now twenty-two.
so, you're gonna have a classroom to yourself?


that's what rich asked me over the phone. yes, i said. i have a hard time buying it myself. but after watching mr. cramer and now ms. flatley struggle to give their students something, anything meaningful, i think i'll turn out alright. today, honestly, this is what the schedule looked like:

8:45 - 9:15 silent reading/individual meetings with james & meagan
9:15 - 10:00 math
10:00 - 11:45 break/walk/lunch (yes! that's an hour and a half of doing nothing!)
11:45 - 12:15 science video on light & sound
12:15 - 1:10 making posters for green club (recycle, reduce, reuse)/random trip for a few (boys only) to the weight room
1:10 - 1:40 fire drill (apparently, someone actually called in a bomb threat. way to ruin our super-unproductive day, delinquent!)
1:40 - 2:15 computers/posters (you kids decide!)

and that was a whole day. what's sad is that it's a fair and honest reflection of what they've been doing (or haven't been doing) the last three weeks. what annoyed me most was that during math, the kids were actually getting somewhere for a while. but whenever i stopped helping a student, he would just turn around and start talking to somebody else. esteban complained that it was ten o'clock, that they needed a break, and when i denied him this, he ran to ms. flatley. of course she said it was okay (she loves her breaks!), but i told her that they hadn't been doing anything, that they didn't deserve to go on a break. she quickly changed her mind and began checking to see which students had done their homework. and of course all of them said that they had, so, within five minutes, they were all out the door.

sometimes it feels like somehow, my life has turned into an episode of the office. and coincidentally, tonight's episode, a rerun, was the one where michael was so unproductive that jan had to log all of michael's work for the day.

i only wish ms. flatley would do cosby impressions, stand in line for soft pretzels, and fall asleep at her desk. then my office dream could become a reality.
summer = ice cream.


watsonville is amazing. it never gets over 90 degrees here. at night, it even gets chilly. i'm not looking forward to hundred degree heat in sacramento this weekend. back in the day, during my high school summers, i would wake up to a hot and stuffy room. it didn't used to be like that. my dad cut down the tree in our front yard when i was in fifth or sixth grade because my aunt ging-ging, a.k.a. ate, told him it would bring him good luck. my dad ended up selling his care home shortly after that, then went to work as a janitor with my uncle mike at uc davis. thanks a lot, ate.

the kids were out of control yesterday. i finally realized it was because they didn't have to go to school today. fridays are never really that bad, but any school days right before a holiday makes them go nuts. jesus was especially getting on both meagan and my nerves. jesus is this chubby kid with really skinny legs, and he's always hanging around tougher, older looking dudes. he's a total poser, but nobody's told him that yet. anyway, yesterday, he kept telling me to "lean like a cholo." normally, i don't mind humoring the kids, and putting my elbows up, side to side, but since they were so terrible yesterday, i refused to do it. they were constantly talking through meagan's vocabulary lesson, so she finally just gave up and said, "alright. forget it. i'm done." she erased all the words from the board.

it's days like that where i really don't mind military recruiters coming onto campus. i know, it's a terrible thing to say, but even after meagan and i gave our whole talk about how recruiters were going to trick them into signing up during their junior and senior years, two of them still raised their hands when asked, "who still wants to join the military?" jesus was one of them.

is our children learning?

meagan, aimee and i went to pajaro dunes yesterday and played some games on the beach. who could jump the farthest? who could throw the purple soccer ball the farthest? baby in the air! it was strange, yet fun. then aimee and meagan got ice cream at basking robbins. "summer equals ice cream," aimee said, eating peach ice cream off a sugar cone. i didn't get any. i've decided i'm lactose intolerant. i knew one scoop would send me to the bathroom all night. i also decided i have a mild case of OCD. i throw away scraps of paper, even if they don't belong to me. i just don't like clutter.

today is the fourth of july. we're going to the watsonville plaza to watch the parade at 2 p.m. lots of fireworks are going to go off tonight. i used to look forward to that when i was little. but my mom, as usual, would ruin it. "all your money, just going up in smoke," she would say. and now that i have so little of it, i wouldn't dare buy a single sparkler. thanks a lot, mom.
aetna, i hate you, and you're bringing me down.

sequoia elementary cancelled my interview today. said they found a "more qualified" teacher for the position. come on, who's more qualified than me? whatever. so now i'm only looking at george y. komure elementary. it better be good...

the kids went on a field trip today to bethany university. who's idea was this? let's take a bunch of poor mexican students to a predominantly (62%) caucasian, christian school? needless to say, the kids were bored, the volunteers uncomfortable. the christian students, chad, "rags," (a chubbier version of dominique) and bree, talked about their school. bree: "i prayed to jesus to figure out what school i wanted, and i felt most at peace here."

after the debacle at bethany, we took the kids to sky park. the whitest part of scotts valley. i could feel the mothers snatching their kids up and heading for their cars as my troop of underprivileged mexicanos made their way to the picnic tables. run for your lives! they've crossed the unfinished wall and now they're here!

meagan, miss fisher (the temporary principal) and i tried to give them a sobering talk abot college, since most of them seemed pretty bored on this trip. i talked about how i was the typical slacker in high school, and how i barely got accepted to seattle university. "everyday after school, i watched tv, slept, did an hour of homework, if that, and then went back to sleep." to this day i still don't know why seattle university took me in. i just got lucky. i hope these kids get lucky, too.

i worked with jason a.k.a. "de pico" after school. i tried to read him where the sidewalk ends, but he was barely having it. he keeps wandering around and talking about his "muscles." he says he needs to work his muscles and then he goes running up and down a bench. normally, this would be cute, but after working with detached ninth graders all day, it just gets kind of annoying. i just want to teach somebody something, anything. i just want to keep telling everyone what i've learned, what i'm thinking, but i guess that's what this blog is for.

meagan and i watched sicko yesterday. our current insurance provider, aetna, was featured at least three times as one of the worst companies. we decided that we're going to move to france once we have enough money saved.

other tidbits of the day:
*daisy wanted to go home early because the park had no hot cheetos. we ended up playing around the world. i beat her.
* esteban complained that he didn't want to be in miss fisher's group. "i want to be with james," he moaned. it made me feel like i mattered.
*francisco a.k.a. "shaggy" shook his head and said, "yes." he nods his head and says, "no."
*the chubby dominique ad-libbed a song. she has a great voice. but, she's a christian.
*chad said he was from issaquah. meagan later told me, "he reeked of issaquah." then added, "i hate white guys with dreadlocks."
*tommy looked like he was listening intently to our sobering speech. i hope he achieves much more than i did in high school.