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Fishing for comfort

In response to photo-fiction 33

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“Give me two reasons.” I heard the shudder in her voice, she was trying not to let me hear the tears. She was being dramatic, like always. I told her as much.
“Please.” asking in that quiet way she had. The way she had each time she did this, each time I fell for it and indulged her fishing for compliments. I rolled my eyes and hung up. Not this time. I wouldn’t be sucked in. This was not my circus, I needed to get her off my back.

I woke up to 15 missed calls. Hell, when she wanted attention she really knew how to get it. Thank god for silent mode. I turn on the news, and there she is. Cute and smiling, confident. I drop my coffee mug. She was just being dramatic. Like she had been a million times. A million times she had called me in the middle of the night fishing for comfort. Looking for reasons to stay in this life.

Not this time.

First impressions

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Jessup rounded the corner in time to see a chair erupt from the plate glass window in the front of the address he had been given. The restaurants’ refugees invaded the quiet street. The former customer of the establishment clambered over each other and the shards of broken glass still decorating the window frame to get away from whatever it was that started the commotion.

Outside the group of three militiamen who were ambling along the other side of the street, chatting good-naturedly stopped and gawked. Jessup skidded to a halt. Too late, as one of the three pointed in his direction and gave a holler. So much for doing this quick and easy.

Luckily the confusion from the eatery was infectious. The few erupting patrons had become a mob of confusion as those trying to flee, clashed with those trying to run closer to see what had caused the ruckus. It was easy for Jessup to get lost in the fray, and find himself in front of the broken window.

The empty frame held a perfect picture of what misinformation and fear could do if delivered the right way and in the right amounts. The young militiaman in the establishment looked just about to piss himself as he faced down the source of the fray. A boy, no more than 15, sitting at the remains of a table, palms outstretched in surrender, looking just about as afraid and stupefied as the man who was screaming and pointing his weapon at him.

Jessup saw the potential for an ugly situation to turn hideous when he saw what had the militiaman crapping himself. The boy’s hands were on fire. More accurately, angry red flames danced across his palms. The boy, his eyes a bright cerulean, glanced back and forth in fearful awe between the end of the pistol and his flame covered palms.

The man kept screaming, even as the boy tried closing his fists and opening them. As the child tried shaking the hands, as if he were trying to extinguish the flames. Jessup saw the moment the man with the gun let lose his bladder and a bullet, and he was launching himself through the window when he saw bright blue eyes widen in shock and fear and then narrow in morbid determination. The bullet had gone wide, hitting nothing but a bottle of something oily and fragrant on the shelves behind the counter, but the flames now covered the whole hands, they had turned white and emanated a heat that Jessup could feel twenty feet away.

‘If they are going to shoot at me, then I must fight,’ the eyes said. Jessup, if he were having a civil conversation with the boy would have given him about 50 reasons why fighting with the man-boy, who now smelled of rotten onions and ammonia, was a bad idea. As it was they were in the middle of a potential war zone, with a mob forming and a veritable army on the way and there was no room for civil conversation.

Jessup leapt through the frame of shards and copied the boy’s submissive stance. He faced the boy but addressed the excrement soaked man-child quivering too hard to shoot either of them.

“Hey,” the boy just trembled in response. “You think pointing that thing at him is helping?” This time the boy offered a whimper and a squishy plopping sound emanated from his trousers. Jessup wasn’t sure if he was trying to suppress a laugh or a gag. “I would like to think putting it down would be a good idea.”

The gun clattered to the floor. Jessup now faced the boy.

“Hey kid.” Frightened eyes turned to the newcomer, one flaming palm also followed the motion. “You got a name?” Frightened eyes turned to the newcomer and the determination shifted focus. The man-boy took the chance to make a mad squishy dash though the agape restaurant door, but Jessup had no time to pay much attention.

“No name is fine. Do you know how to turn those off?” Jessup gestured at the hands, but his peripheral vision showed him that the crowd was looking less civilian gawker and more paramilitary by the second. Scared eyes shifted to the crowd, widened and then looked at Jessup. The boy shook his head no.

“First time this happen to you?” Nod Yes “Alright, so I’m here to take you somewhere safe. Would you be willing to do that?” Wide, scared, uncertain eyes just kept shifting from his face to behind him.

“Do you know what they will do to you?” Another nod, and tears misting up the corners of confused, wide eyes. “Kid you have the advantage, you have those, I have me and my wits and an order to get you to safety.” More staring, a mist became a dam, threatening to burst. “If I was looking to hurt you, I would have tried already.” The flames receded to the palms and returned to their original red. Not angry, these were flames of fear.

“Just don’t point those things at me, Ok? And I’ll get you out of here.” Jessup looked at the door to the back of the room. Actually he looked through the closed door, he knew his own eyes probably now blazed blood red, while he was using his abilities. The boys, eyes were wondrously wide when Jessup again focused on him. Jessup saw the core of flame in the boy, he saw the way it blazed and gutted, the flame mirroring the boy in uncertainty and fear.

Jessup motioned towards the door, and the boy took his que. He extended his arms out in front of him and allowed the red flames to spurt towards the door; the door simply parted and removed itself from their path.  Out in the alley through the smoldering doorframe, there were no souls to be found.  As if the mob in the front of the establishment had sucked all the living things out of the city immediately around them.

Jessup didn’t bother to ponder at it, he just ducked them around the alley and towards jetty at the end of the roadway. He splashed the boy with the cool water of the harbor and flung him, smoldering and confused into the dingy.

 

 

Lil’ Johnny

downloadWhen I was a student-teacher one of my facilitators used to forever give us scenarios with the fictitious trouble maker Lil’ Johnny. It was a source of great amusement and I must say it helped to spice up her class.

We all had, of course, had a Johnny before. And we had all pretty much already come to the conclusion that Lil’ Johnny was a kid with issues. Hey, who doesn’t have issues in this world today? Why would we think Lil’ Johnny was any different?

The problem, though, seems to be that 7 years after laughing and role-playing and scheming strategies in that classroom, I’m now faced with a culture that is almost completely alien to the one presented to me in that room.

I find myself daily in a classroom that wants very much to look like this. giphy (4)

It seems like instead of having one or two Lil’ Johnny. I’m faced with 45% Johnny’s and even some Lil’ Janes to compliment them. Which makes me feel like my classroom is

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It’s not a great feeling returning to the staffroom feeling like you’ve just starred in a scene from some world war 2 movie. You know the ones where the men are cornered in the trenches and can only throw the occasional grenade out and hope it hits the right target.

It’s ‘noice’ to imagine that all those fancy strategies like “Ignoring unwanted behavior” and “calling on the student once” or my personal favorite” waiting for the class to settle itself” etc. etc. etc, are always the answer. Unfortunately, they aren’t. Unfortunately they seem to be completely inadequate in the face of some of the cultural and social problems we have in the Caribbean classroom today.

(Yes, I’m singling out the Caribbean classroom because I feel like it is sorely neglected in the field of modern psychology, especially given all the pedagogues who lecture and self promote but do precious little to help us to establish the psychological base that we can work off of to better aid our students)

It’s enough to make a girl…rxf3oLt

Alas, that isn’t the answer either. Sigh, what is a girl to do? It was during a guilt trip my youngest tried his very best to lay down on me, that it occurred to me. A genuine, authentic eureka moment! Empathy as a classroom management tool!

Hold on, relax. It’s not as messed up as it seems.

I started with the class with the most and most outrageous set of Lil’s. I set up the class to do a cooperative learning exercise. Each group got an objective, an outline of their content and time to plan. I watched and listened, maybe cackled a little as some elaborate presentations were planned. Skits, lectures, song sessions, you name it, they planned it.

Then came the presentation day. And boy, did my babies put out. Some of them performed some works of educational art. I loved it, and for each act of greatness, there was an act, by the Lil’s spread among the groups, to disrupt the wonder.

Little faces turned to me in dismay, little hands were thrown up in exasperation. Until the biggest Lil in my class stood up and delivered a speech for good behavior so inspirational that even I was taken aback. Dude!! something might even have gotten stuck in my eye.

After class, a few of the Lil’s cornered me. I was made to listen as they said things like “Teacher wha mek dem sooooooo rude?” “Teacher ah so you feel every day?!?” “Teacher me sorry bad jack.” “Teacher nar do it again, me cyan teach nobody again.”

I chuckled, it was fun. A little revenge, a little life lessoning, and the next week even though there were some minor disruptions I never had to look at anyone like this…

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I find that with a little heavy complimenting, and a few sweets my classroom is a bit more civilized. It’s not pristine, I didn’t solve anyone’s life angst, but our learning environment might just be a little more heavy on the learning.

 

And for that maybe I might spend a little more time thinking of that class like this…

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What to do when there is nothing else to do?

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One would think that this face is the worst face a student can give you when taking a test. It’s not. It really isn’t.

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This is the worst face I can get from my students in the moments before collecting the papers after a test.

A little context.

For the last few weeks, I have been teaching the periodic table and periodicity. Not hard really, it’s a lot of recall and a few trends. Easy peasy. NOT

Why not? Because human beings do not generally absorb information simply by just being told. I know this, I can even relate. So knowing this and understanding that for the 22 people I have to teach this to, this whole education thing is a bore and thus not priority number one. I set out to make one of the most boring sections of my syllabus fun.

With skits and demonstrations, minimal lecturing, handouts, and practice exercises. By celebrating when the one kid in the class who hates me, the classroom, the content, the school compound, the lab and the world outside of football in general, interact with me and the class and is even leading the charge when it comes to answering the questions.

I’ve linked the lesson sections to that song that was soo successful in the previous section. Singing it in tandem with the lesson, having them relate relevant lines and explain why these lines are relevant. I’ve had them demonstrate physically the trends and reflect on the demonstrations. I’ve reviewed and felt completely justified in assessing.

I’ve even managed to get a few peeps out of the reclusive students who usually don’t answer and grabbed the attention of the new kid, who literally just joined the class last week (best believe there’s gonna be a rant about that).

So when I got that confident face at the end of the test, despite years of experience telling me to go hide under my bed and not mark anything, I still strutted confidently to the staffroom to mark.

 

efb5431c91d587f5a6bcc998994d86d7.gif Literally me after marking. Because despite using varying methods, having them orally review the definition for electronegativity, discuss how and why it increases up the group, having a small mountain of written evidence that they should know, that electron shells are gained down the group and that valence electrons remain the same down the group. Despite having them correctly demonstrate the ease of ionization going down the group and relating it to the trend in ionization energy. In spite of seeing them correctly demonstrate and explain the shielding effect and how it affects ionization.  The vast majority of my students have told me, through their scores, that there was not enough information transfer for them to effectively navigate 20 multiple choice questions.

So now the question is, what to do next?

For now, the answer lies in an hour of sleep and a few episodes of Umbrella Academy. If anyone out there has any other ideas, please HELP.

 

Looks Like I’m Back

So after an extended break and lots of roadblocks and excuses. I’m diving right back into blogging. While I don’t want to detail the epic mess that has been life since I was forced to take a sabbatical, I do feel inclined to say I missed the hell out of this space and all of you.

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One of the reasons I’ve been gone so long is just an overwhelming sense of fraudulence. “What makes you think you can do this?” “Who would ever want to read anything you have to say?” My mind screams, even as I write this and kick myself, for thinking it, all the while being totally mortified that I’ll be screaming into the wind. Or worse, laughed or shamed off the internet as I know it.

I think my main motivation is that life has been kicking me in the ovaries, with much intensity for the last year or so, and this space and my readers have played a huge role in helping me feel human in the past. I’m hoping for that sense of community again if the community will have me.

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In an attempt to make space for everything, I’ve also tried to make a few changes. SO what do you have to look forward to?

  • The photo-fiction challenge is making a comeback, starting this Thursday, the 14th March 2018. Though it will be a fortnightly offering instead of a weekly one.
  • My Antigua. I’ll be publishing a series of monthly articles about my Antiguan experience and what being Antiguan means to me. This isn’t some sneaky way of getting y’all to come visit me, though that would be kinda cool. No. It actually came out of a conversation with a friend of mine about our dying culture, and how we perceive it.
  • And last but not least, I’m making my teaching journal public. Just rantings, or success stories or pedagogical theories that I usually would do but never have the heart to share. This is me trying to make all parts of me cohesive. Who knows maybe other teachers in my sphere will do the same and we can explore all the conversations that we all grumble about but never really talk about. Or better yet, teachers from other spheres will take pity on me and offer a little advice.

So all in all…

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