Twenty Nine Years After

Twenty-nine years ago the Loma Prieta earthquake happened at 5:04 and changed my life forever after. The Loma Prieta earthquake and the fifteen seconds I spent cowering under a big oak desk while the ceiling came down in the hundred year old building I was working in changed how I viewed every other second that came after. The Loma Prieta earthquake and the two kind people (one who was someone’s love, one who was someone’s dad) who died on the other side of the wall during those fifteen seconds changed the way I treated every other person I met after….

I Am Ultra Conservative

This morning at a stoplight I got caught behind a white truck with two stickers on the back window: T****. Make America Great Again. CONSERVATIVE. BECAUSE NOT EVERYONE CAN BE A FREELOADER. These stickers side by side were such an oxymoron, emphasis on moron, that I decided that I’m taking the word conservative back from the conservatives. I am so conservative, I am Ultra Conservative. My students know never to begin an essay with a dictionary definition in my class, but school is out for the summer so here are some meanings of my new favorite word “conservative”: holding to…

Divided We Stand

My daughter and I were in the Barnes and Noble last night buying surfing girl magazines before our movie. By the register a white woman kind of strolled around, talking to her friend in a loud voice all about how illegal immigrants losing their kids at the border get what they deserve when they break the law. “Let’s get away from that Trump supporter so I don’t have to listen to that bullshit.” (That was me. Loud voice.) I have no illusions I changed her mind. She was pretty secure in her fascist point of view. Many of my fellow…

Stephon Clark Is Our Son

I’ve lost the love of friends and family members because of my stand on racial justice in this country. Black lives matter. How controversial this simple concept seems to be to so many White people. Today is Good Friday. Two days before Easter. As a Catholic woman I am celebrating the most meaningful holiday season in my Liturgical calendar. In the Gospel of John 13:34, Christ gives the toughest order of all time: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” Our Brother knew…

I Fear For My Safety

The police who cornered Stephon Clark in his grandparents’ backyard and shot him down say they “feared for their safety.” They thought he had a gun. He had a cell phone. I was at the protest the other day in Sacramento. We circled the park across City Hall. We marched through the streets, climbed onto the freeway and blocked traffic, stormed the arena where we blocked the entrance for people coming to the Kings game. Stephon Clark was a student at Sac High when I taught there. I knew him. Does that matter? I wonder. I wonder about what matters…

The #WalkUp Myth

I was such a misfit in junior high that I wondered if I existed. Nobody hit me at school, but rather I was invisible. On a seventh grade ski trip, I was lost for hours and literally nobody noticed. I could have died buried in a snowdrift and I wouldn’t have been missed until my parents noticed me not coming off the bus at the end of the week. You’re never going to hear from me that the pain of not belonging doesn’t have long-term consequences on a person. Part of why I became a teacher was to seek redemption…

The Best Advice I Ever Heard

Watch where you are going so that you won’t fall down. (My husband) You should stop dyeing your hair. (Also my husband) Do yoga. (Laura) Don’t say what you are supposed to say. (Evan) Never date a married man. (My dad) It’s better to be alone than surrounded by assholes. (Also my dad) Whenever your professor suggests getting naked, say no. (Again, my dad) Never enter into a financial arrangement with a man you aren’t married to. (Dad.) Iron your shirts for work. (My mom) Write what you know. (Also my mom) Don’t watch Gilligan’s Island. It’s too stupid to watch….

The Worst Advice I’ve Ever Heard

In honor of giving up advice for Lent, here is a list of the worst advice I’ve ever heard: You should lose weight. You would be really pretty if you lost weight. (A grown man I worked with the summer I was 17.) You should be stricter with your students. (A former colleague who was let go for getting high during school hours. At school.) You should establish firm consequences for your students. (A former boss who freaked out and suspended one of my best students the one day she subbed for me.) That brown skirt makes for a good…

Kids These Days Feel Entitled

High school teacher here, if you didn’t already know. So I know what I’m talking about when I say kids these days feel entitled. They feel entitled in ways those of us coming up in the seventies, eighties, and nineties did not. Kids these days feel soooooooooo entitled. I didn’t feel as entitled as they do when I was their age. My generation rolled with the punches and didn’t make waves. We worked hard and hoped for the best. This bent towards working hard and making do is a hallmark of so-called Generation X. We’re proud of it. Kids these…

What Goes Through This Teacher’s Mind When You Say “Walk Out.”

How will I protect my students who have noncustodial parents with restraining orders? How will I protect my students on the spectrum who are extremely upset by changes in routine and lack of supervision? How will I protect my students who have substance abuse issues and who may use the unsupervised opportunity to make poor decisions? How will I recover the lost learning time of an entire day? What will happen to the families with parents who have jobs that do not allow them time off for civil disobedience? What will happen to the students for whom the school building…