Many thoughts about the world, meditation, parenting, Judaism, pregnancy, teaching, cancer survivorship, moving from West Coast to East and more.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Teaching Log: Yeshiva Multiculturalism

We're starting a letter writing unit in our grade. My class is going to be exchanging letters with the class of a good friend of mine back in Portland, OR. Obviously I have the ulterior motive of just wanting to connect with my old home, but I also wanted my students to have the experience of writing to a very different bunch of kids.

In the midst of planning this, I learned that our school now has a "multiculturalism committee." I have to say, I'm a little skeptical. When my supervisor told us about it, she talked about sending video tapes back and forth showing each other's classes between our school and a school in the South Bronx to show that we're "all the same." Multiculturalism 101 dictates that we're NOT all the same. That we're quite different, in fact. Multiculturalism is about recognizing and celebrating differences.

But I guess if you're coming from an all-Jewish school, the assumption is that it's hard to see that other kids are the same as you. Truthfully, some of my students aren't aware that they know any non-Jews until they remember that my assistant in the classroom is not Jewish. But for them, and for me too, that's just kind of an afterthought, as most of the assistants in our school are Jewish too. As far as I know, my assistant is the only non-Jewish employee with the exception of custodians and lunch servers. What kind of message does THAT send?

I really value the idea of having a Jewish school. Besides needing a Jewish education, Orthodox Jewish lifestyle is challenging without the support of everyone around you keeping Kosher, Shabbat etc. We have every intention of sending ND to a yeshiva (especially if I'm still teaching there). But how do we give her AUTHENTIC multicultural experiences? I'm hoping that she'll be interested in extracurricular activities in places that have kids with more diverse lifestyles and backgrounds.

And as a teacher, how can I help create this for my students?

And if there's a multicultural committee, why the heck didn't I know about it and am I not invited to be a part of it? Is the committee made up of school parents only? Do they know what they're doing? I'm feeling a little jaded. Truthfully, multiculturalism is a rusty area for me in teaching. I learned that from watching myself navigate the classroom in Portland. But so far I haven't seen much evidence that people in this very Jewish environment can even talk the talk the way we did at Oberlin College where I did my undergrad or in the teaching program at Lewis and Clark.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Cough Cough Sniff Sniff Whisper Whisper

I'm just at the end of a NASTY NASTY cold. Oh, this was a bad one! It started Friday and I was very un-concerned about it. But I knew that my assistant, who is one of the only Christian teachers in our school, would be off on Tuesday and Wednesday for "the holiday." (Our school is one of the yeshivot that pretends that Xmas isn't happening. Makes the whole school bus situation a bit of a nightmare.) And usually teachers and assistants pretty much rely on each other to be substitutes.

So I took off Monday, thinking I'd be better, but long story short, Tuesday was my worst day. That was also the one day this week so far that I DID go to work. I skipped my morning "support" jobs and dragged myself in to teach.

My supervisor said that as short as she was on staff, she would never make me come in if I really felt that bad. She also offered me a substitute assistant. So I took the latter option.

Oh, by the time I got there I could barely even talk. A teacher said to me, "You're so good."

My response: That or my self-esteem is low enough that I have to do this to prove myself.

That response is what this entry is about.

I would be lying if I said I always feel great about myself, but in general I'm pretty pleased. And at the times that I'm not, I can at least keep myself busy enough not to think about my doubts too much.

But when I'm sick, this little voice just won't relent. I feel angry at myself and guilty when I'm sick. I convince myself I'm faking. I worry that others don't believe I really mean it. I wonder if I'm lazy.

It's ludicrous, and I can see it now as I'm on the mend. But there the voice is nonetheless.

Weird. Do they make a vitamin that cuts down on that?

Labels: , ,

Saturday, December 22, 2007

No New Clothes

It's been about three months since I've bought any new clothes. Ordinarily this would not be surprising as I hate shopping. But this has been a deliberate choice. Since around Rosh Hashanah I've decided to try and go a whole year with no new clothes.

Inspiration for this has included:

-Around September I spent more than I should have on a total splurge outfit that I didn't need from a breastfeeding clothes company.

-I had a conversation with a friend about Freeganism that intrigued me.

-I've been grateful to hardly have to buy a single scrap of clothing for ND ever thanks to the abundant gifts, loans and hand-me-downs of clothes that she outgrows so quickly anyway.

-I'm concerned about waste and consumerism in general.

-I'm tired of how cluttered our apartment feels.

-And most of all... I've read so many stories of people who simply weren't drowning in all the stuff they needed in the world. I know that shoes, for example, were a very precious resource for my grandmother growing up, and I know that in the past people actually valued their special clothes and were grateful to them. I don't get to experience that often because I can have anything I want any time, pretty much.
Maybe not designer quality, but I've never been desperate just to have a coat to stay warm, for example, the way a homeless person might.

My hope is that I would be able to prevent impulse-buying and learn to appreciate my belongings more.

It's starting to pay off. Now that the cold is here I'm discovering I really only have 2 sweaters and 2 warm vests that I can wear to work. Otherwise I have to layer.

Practically speaking, this is plenty. But fashion-wise, it would be nice to have some more. I'm quite enjoying the wanting right now at least as much as I'll enjoy buying something in a year or, better yet, stumbling onto something on Freecycle.

Also thinking about getting a new robe and maybe some tall boots.

In the meantime, as much as I keep wanting a new pair of slippers, I'm making better use than I have in ages of my thick wool socks. Appreciating them like I never did before.

P.S. Please don't take pity on me and send me stuff!

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, December 08, 2007


Last Wednesday night we had a staff Channukah party. It was hard to leave ND with her dad. I wanted to go to the party, but it was snowing out and I knew she would cry after I left.

I spent the first part of the evening opening conversations with people saying, "ND will be 1 tomorrow."

Then suddenly it hit me... a year ago at that time I was in labor.

Once I realized that, I began to feel very introverted, very powerful. I left the party shortly after. (I'd said hi to everyone I needed to by that point anyway.)

It's amazing to think how different I felt a year ago... that drowsy high-strung intense in-loveness. This year has been about so much worry and trying of things for the first time. There have been a lot of times when I thought I was feeling like myself, but in retrospect I was really quite dazed and overwhelmed both by awe and exhaustion.

It's a little different now. Our life is becoming one of routine in which we do things a certain way without too many surprises. She looks like a little girl already. And she's even oppositional. She likes to throw herself back in the high chair, hitting her head against the back, and I've been trying to get her to stop. This morning I took her down every time she did it and she would cry, not out of sadness but to actually tantrum a little. To "communicate" you might say.

"She's so advanced," we said. "She's already acting like a two year old."

And it's a little scary to think she might start to become so much more separate of a person, so much less willing to stay in sync with me, and vice versa.

Before, every want was a need. Now the two are starting to become different categories.

But no matter what, every morning I wake up and see her and it just starts again... this constant amazement of where our lives are now.

At that party someone said, "A.'s not at all happy about being a mom, is she?" and gave me a big smile.

(The pictures were all taken on her birthday. The first is of some tangerine I shared with her that morning. The other two are at day care when I picked her up later. We celebrated her birthday that night after lighting Channukah candles and again Saturday night after my parents arrived for a visit with us.)

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, December 03, 2007

Wrench, Heart, Wrench!

I wrote an environmental article linking the preciousness of breastmilk to the finite quality of water which comes from Hashem. It's not the kind of writing I usually do. I usually write heart-wrenching cancer stories.

I got the first rejection today and I'm trying to accept simple disappointment and not be annoyed. It could be because they only like heart-wrenching cancer stories, or that they're worried about formula-using readers who might be offended, or that the agenda is too bossy or the writing isn't good enough. Don't know.

I'll send it a few more places. I need to be realistic that my writing one article is not going to rescue the planet from imminent destruction. Therefore, this article not being published with this publication does not mean that I'm failing any worse in my mission to help make the world a cleaner place for ND and her peers.

But I also wonder about the future of my writing. Whenever will I publish an article that is not about cancer? I'm a good writer! I just am limited in the kinds of things I write well for the right audiences. I've been asked to do a piece to a certain publication about my shul's environmental efforts. Write a "reporting" piece? Me? I don't know if I can do something simple like that. When I'm supposed to write, "Congregation K_____ is taking a leadership position in promoting environmental awareness in the Orthodox community," I'm going to write, "Since no one else is doing it, we're tyring, but no one shows up and people think we're crazy."

Labels: , , , ,