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updates for 06.11.2011

15 new posts today


DOOM!

I am not looking forward to the ESL PRAXIS II in the morning. That is all.

 


Classroom songs

One of my goals on Monday is to build up my classroom culture because right now it's kind of failing.. so I need some help here! Below are a few songs that I am thinking of for a positive song that we can listen to and have lyrics posted on the wall for. But I want it to be something that they can relate to and have a good beat. Can I get some votes on which ones I should use? Of if you have a better idea? Andy Grammer - Keep your head up. Glee Cast - Defying Gravity I will survive Uhh.. I can't come up with anything else right now. Any other ideas? In the Words of Journey, Don't Stop Believin'

 


Building a Vision

As I sit down for a long overdue update, the inspirational closing ceremonies for Phoenix Induction are fresh in my mind. Over the last four days, so much has happened. I got a job, lost my parking pass, learned more about Teach For America and the way we're approaching Transformational Change in Phoenix. Above all, though, I have been blown away by my fellow corps members. Every session and activity was filled with passionate, accomplished people. Meeting my roommate was especially illuminating. His background is different from mine, so we have had a number of long conversations about our paths to the Corps, and our aspirations for the classroom. I feel very fortunate to hear his story, and experience his perspective on education. Every one I met has both impressed and humbled me, and I look forward to seeing the amazing things our Corps will do. As to the job, I'll be teaching in a K-4 resource room in the fall. I got to go see my classroom, meet the principal, and drive through the community I will be serving. The warmth and dedication of the people I met made me very excited about this year. My future room was full of another teacher's things, but something about seeing where I will teach sparked my thinking about the fall. There's a lot I've thought about lately, but here are my big ideas... for the moment. First, my vision is to lead all of my students to achieve 95% of their IEP goals by building a community of inspired scholars. I want my classroom to reflect that through academic trackers and individual recognition. Scholar of the week? I'm sure I'll share... Also, borrowing from a master teacher I was fortunate to work with, my room will not be called the resource room. I can't steal Scholar U, but I'm looking for a name reflecting our mission to achieve. Finally, I want to create a goal board, where each kid will have a spot to put up words and images referencing their goal. That way, anyone needing to refocus can go look at where they are working to go. I hope that made some sense. I loved Induction, but TFA is good at making me super tired. Thanks to everyone who's supporting me! Stay tuned for Mr. Payne at Institute...

 


Delta hospitality :)

I spent tonight with some of the most welcoming and warm people I have ever met. And that's saying a lot for a lady who hails from the Blue Ridge Mountains, specifically the "Friendly City" of Harrisonburg. The lovely community of Cleveland hosted all 300 members of the Delta corps tonight. They sent us special invitations with our names on them and invited us into their homes to share their love of food, culture, education, Mississippi, and friendly people. The house I went to looked like it came straight out of the centerfold of a Southern Living magazine. It was spectacular and I will definitely be getting decorating tips from the sweet lady who hosted some of my friends and me. We walked into the breathtaking backyard where a young blues duo from Oxford were playing. (I thought of my Momma when they played Otis Redding's "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay.") I spoke to a few of the lovely women of Cleveland, Mississippi who were so excited to share with us their love of the Delta. And I have to say, their love is infectious. You can't help but be touched by the gentle swaying of the trees on a balmy Delta night. Add in some fried okra, and I'll be calling this place home in no time.

 


An English Teacher with Writing Anxiety?

It may sound strange to say that I am an aspiring English teacher (well, language arts teacher) and I also suffer from major writing anxiety. The uncomfortable feeling at the idea of my writing being on a public stage is exactly why I am going to dedicate some of my time to blogging. If I am going to expect my students to stretch themselves then I also need to be willing to challenge myself. I am not sure when this "writing anxiety" began, but I can guess, it started in elementary school when I was chiefly concerned with singing the National Anthem louder than anyone else in the class and not with learning the basics of writing.  It could also stem from my high school years when I was "too angsty to function," and was busy memorizing an obscure monologue instead of learning how to write a college essay.  Of course, in college I improved, and in some cases could fool a reader into believing that I was a confident writer.  The feeling still does persist and you better believe that my heart will give an extra flutter when I click "post." I share this challenge because I believe that this "writing anxiety" will help me in becoming a great teacher.  Hopefully, it will help me in understanding my students and connecting with their challenges and successes. I think that as corps members tapping into and embracing our own challenges will help us to succeed in the classroom.

 


my new best friend(s)

Tomorrow 2 other corps members and I are heading to the Mississippi Delta. I don't know about yawl (that's Kentucky girl slang for "you all") but I am most scared about those mosquitoes in the Delta. I heard some carry diseases. Remember all those news stories about the West Nile Virus, you know that deadly virus that struck a few years back? I heard some of the mosquitoes even carry that. Ma gash!! Lord help me in the Delta. Clearly my priorities are wrong. lol. I'm going to make the best of it. After all, its for the kids!

 


Fired Up!

[caption id="attachment_12" align="alignleft" width="229" caption="This is how I feel after Induction!"][/caption] This week has flown by. I've met so many great people at Induction and learned so many new things. After yesterday's welcome ceremony I just feel so fired up! I feel like I can end the achievement gap RIGHT NOW! lol. That's how excited I am about this experience. I know it will take time and patience, but with endurance and perseverance we can accomplish our goal of giving every child a chance to learn. I am super stoked about finding out my placement (fingers crossed that its in South Charlotte) and I am also super stoked about finding out who my PD (or manager, as they call it now) is. I know it sounds nerdy, and maybe even a little overly excited of me, but I've already started brainstorming ideas about my classroom. I want to make sure my students are excited to learn, because I am most definitely excited to teach them. Even though Middle School Math wasn't my first choice subject, I am honored that Teach For America is trusting me to teach it. It will give me an opportunity to face a challenge that I myself had trouble learning at one point. Because I know how difficult math can seem (keyword: seem) I feel like I can relate to my students to make it plain. Sometimes we defeat ourselves mentally before we even get a chance to try. I believe once you convince yourself that you CAN do something, it is already done. Voila!

 


My (New) Kentucky Home

My first three days in Kentucky have been an incredible experience. I want to get into details, but first I want to recap what I'm doing here with Teach For America, and what Teach For America aims to do as an organization dedicated to eliminating the achievement gap in the US. Teach For America is a nationwide non-profit dedicating to the elimination of educational inequity in our system.  Teach For America  employs bright, passionate leaders, often college graduates and young professionals, and uses their enthusiasm and innovation to tackle the gross educational disparities faced by children in low-income schools. Corps members have a direct and measurable impact on the lives of each and every child in their classroom. Moreover, as a corps united at the national level against educational inequity, they challenge the notion that the quality of a child's education should be determined by the average income of their zip code; instead, they stand for the principle that all children should have equal opportunity at a great education. The statistics surrounding the achievement gap are stunning. In schools located in low income areas, students are not offered the same competitive education as their peers. By the time children are in fourth grade, they may be up to three grade levels behind their high-income peers. This means that while students in high achieving schools may be reading on the level of Harry Potter books or other extended chapter books, their low-income peers may be still reading picture books. As the curriculum builds and expands on fundamentals, these students continue to be left behind. Only 50% of these students will graduate from high school, and those who do will read on average on an 8th grade level. Only 1 in 10 of these students will make it through college. Kentucky's statistics look a little more challenging than the nation's average. In statistics rating graduating students' readiness for college or career after graduating high school, Kentucky ranks 50th across all states and DC (Only Mississippi ranks lower). Much of the drag on these statistics comes from Eastern Kentucky, an area rich in history and culture but with great economic disadvantage and limited opportunities for upward mobility. In many cases, the region experiences a "brain drain" where the most successful and bright students leave the area seeking opportunity, as nearly all of the job opportunities in this area center around labor-intensive coal mining, which brings along with it many environmental health problems such as black lung and chemical leaching. However, as marginalized as many in these communities may seem to be, we've personally experienced a great deal of hope in the region. We have met with many community leaders who share incredible stories and great perspective, who love this area and have great hope for its future. I would say that from my perspective, these communities are very passionate about their heritage and their families, and we see that expressed in strong family values, strong religious ties, an unshakable spirit and sense of humor, and a strong foundation in the expression of history and heritage through folk arts and music. The region itself is so beautiful. When driving here on tuesday, I drove up I-23 in Virginia. After climbing a huge, low grade hill, I saw a little sign that said "Welcome to Kentucky", crested the hill, and saw the road drop into a valley so beautiful that I immediately had tears rolling down my face. Everyone that we've encountered has been incredible. There are 30 of us Corps Members here, and each one is such a strong person and a strong leader. Each person brings such different experiences and skills to the cause. I've been so blessed to meet each person, and I really look forward to getting to know everyone better over the next coming weeks and years. Moreover, everyone that we've encountered in the community has been so welcoming and supportive. Last night, we went to a local folk festival and square dance, and when the leader announced that our group was at the event, the whole place gave us a big round of applause and was cheering, and throughout the night we all had so many people approaching us to welcome us and thank us and ask about our history and motivation. Even when we were square dancing, I had some partners who asked, "are you one of the teachers?" and when I answered yes, said how happy and proud they were to have us here. The arts and cultural expression here is a topic I could talk about for hours, but I will save that for its own post. One really great organization in the area is Appalshop, an arts organization that uses multidisciplinary approaches to support and preserve the stories, culture, and tradition of this area. They are famous for their documentaries, made in response to the many negative images and stereotypes about 'hillbillies' that appear in major media productions. We visited with them for a long time on Wednesday, and I was so impressed with the work and cultural preservation going on there. Check it out at www.appalshop.org Tomorrow, we leave for our training in the Mississippi Delta. Wish us all luck!

 


Charter

I get a kick out of cryptic titles that make you think I’m talking about something else. San Antonio’s 2010 corps calls itself the “charter corps,” and it does not mean we teach in charter schools. We are charter in the sense that we are created. We’re talking about a charter as in a law that creates an entity, a document that outlines the conditions under which a body is organized. To charter something means to begin it, to establish a Way, and it means that everything you do is being done for the first time. I know we’ve got nothing on the real charter corps of 1990, nor on any of the 40-some charter corps pre-2010, because I’m sure being the first batch of TFA-ers in your region has only gotten easier. But allow me to indulge myself here when I say that paving the way is hard. And when I say that my corps is badass because of it. Our ED likes to talk about our “entrepreneurial spirit”—and it used to be just symbolic, but after a year of existence, it’s become true. My corps likes to start things up. When problem-solving, we create solutions more often than we find them. We’re scrappy—we make mistakes and learn from them and just keep threshing as we go. And the staff—all eight of them just now completing their very first year in their positions—are that way, too. Because we’ve started this thing, we’re rolling with it and the only way to go is forward. And now we are finally a full corps—we finally have second-year corps members to provide as much direction, hope, and clarity as we can, and first-year corps member to provide fresh energy, inspiration, and innovation. And as much as I’m falling deeply in love with our 2011 corps and am already impressed by their amazing humility and openness, and as much as I respect them for the unique challenges they’ll go through this year—I’m really, really proud to be able to say I’m a part of the spunky, gritty, hard-core charter corps. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go listen to the most inspiring speaker ever, learn from the most awesome program team ever, mingle and be pushed by the most impressive people ever, and participate in Teach For America’s first ever “Deduction.”

 


Setting Up for Successful Collaboration

So I was reading this Harvard Business Review blog post on the Six Common Misperceptions About Teamwork and this immediately popped out to me:

The hands-on activities of group leaders do make a difference. But the most powerful thing a leader can do to foster effective collaboration is to create conditions that help members competently manage themselves. The second most powerful thing is to launch the team well. And then, third, is the hands-on teaching and coaching that leaders do after the work is underway. Our research suggests that condition-creating accounts for about 60% of the variation in how well a team eventually performs; that the quality of the team launch accounts for another 30%; and that real-time coaching accounts for only about 10%.
Well, shoot, if real-time coaching accounts for only about 10% of the success of a team, then when I embark on my journey of teaching everything through authentic, collaborative, projects, I'd better plan everything ridiculously well so that the conditions for my students' successful teamwork are there. Challenge is, how do I know how successful my planning is until after I've implemented the project? One of my goals, then, this summer, is not only to learn about how to plan projects, but also to put in a place a plan to reflect on each project so that I become better and better at being that condition-setting leader. Originally posted on Setting Up for Successful Collaboration on Science Never Sucks, a Wordpress.com blog.
 


Induction=Whirlwind

I keep using that word--whirlwind. I can't even think of anything better to describe it (yes folks I'm a reading teacher....guess I should practice synonyms. I'm so completely overwhelmed.... This was the end of Day 3. Yesterday was a day from 7:30-6:30pm, then running to dinner at an alum's house until... ohh... 10? Now, I'm laying in a bed at ASU and I just.... TFA has thrown SO much at us in the last 3 days. Tomorrow is an even longer day--leadership and certification seminars specific to our placements. ALL day. Today us hired folk  had "the day off" which really meant spending anywhere from an hour to 10 hours at your school and being at their mercy. I spent.... 4? with my principal and 4 out of the 5 other 2011 TFAers that are going to be working there. Then I went BACK to Target, because, that's right dear readers, my brain is still in Seattle. I forgot to pack that. I got up to the register at Target on Tuesday with a cartful of dorm essentials and snacks etc, and lo and behold, Miss Sunshine left her wallet in the dorm. THIS IS NOT ME. I'm puling my hair out, losing my mind....hah. I love it, the pressure, what I'm here for, the people, the support.... but I'm stressed. And I shouldn't be yet. This is only the beginning. I keep searching for "me" time. I'm gonna need to make some soon. I need to work out, or sleep more, or ..... God only knows. I need my sanity back, and quick. Institute is fast approaching. Sunday is 3 days away. I am not ready! Tonight I went out to dinner with my CCL (Corps culture leader) and she seems very nice. Lots of people there at the restaurant, it's totally great to be able to connect with so many TFA lifestyles and beliefs. Anyways, I'm falling asleep sitting up and I have no idea if that last sentence made sense or where I was even going with it. Thank you and good night..... hah!

 


Turkey Mountain?

Word on the street is that there is a mountain Tulsa. It is called Turkey Mountain and it looks like this:File:Turkey mountain.JPG

Turkey Mountain, courtesy of Wikipedia, courtesy of Nathaniel Ball

Not much of a mountain, I know. Not even close really. Still it reminds me of a really bad metaphor. Since I am going to be an English teacher in practically no time, I feel it is my life's work to evangelize metaphors. Metaphors and puns, for ever and ever, Amen. I feel like I'm climbing Turkey Mountain every afternoon around lunchtime, when I feel like I just can't shake another hand. I can't smile again, can't remember someone's name again, can't say anything intelligent. I forget my paperwork. I can barely speak in English. I long for the comfort of doing such things as sitting at Willaby's eating vegan pancakes at 4am with the same old crew. Life was simpler then. Making friends, finding roommates, and the like seems WAY harder than closing the achievement gap these days. Helping to save our nation's children I can do, but remember one more name I cannot. This whole acting professionally, not responding like a smart-ass at every turn is totally wack. I feel like I'm climbing straight uphill and falling behind fast. Then I step back and look at it in perspective and begin realizing that my own little Turkey Mountain is really just a blip on the radar. So many other, more important things are going on around me, and I will get through the introduction process sooner or later. This morning, we participated in a fabulous panel discussion on diversity. A local actress performed, first, for us, telling us the story of Mrs. Ada Lois Supuel Fisher, a brave woman who in the late 1940s fought for the right to attend law school in Oklahoma under Jim Crow. Her case was a precursor to the famous Brown vs. The Board of Education, and hearing the discrimination she faced was both devastating and inspiring. All I could think throughout was what could lead people to hate so much? The afternoon was rough, I admit. We did our paperwork processing for Tulsa Public Schools, and it was very confusing and disorienting. Also, we peed in cups. After a week of trying to appear professional at every turn, it was kind of like whaa? Tonight the Tulsa Corps had dinner at the Full Moon Cafe on Cherry St., which is the neighborhood where they have the farmers' market and some cute shops. I drove around for a while with some girls looking at apartments and neighborhoods, and I have to admit adjusting to the suburban sprawl is going to be difficult. Still, I feel I can get used to anything. Hopefully we will be signing a lease tomorrow. The low point of the day? Walking into the processing room and learning I was completely unprepared. The high point of the day? Sitting next to my fellow Madison, Wisconsin buddy at the foot of the stage at the Full Moon, listing bewildered as the entire restaurant sang "I've Got Friends in Low Places" during karaoke. It's still stuck in my head, and I was one of two who didn't know the words :)
 


in the words of Demi Lovato...

"This is real, this is me, I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be now..." I like that song -- don't judge me :). Today was Day 3 of 4 in Induction, and it was just as packed and amazing as all of the days so far have been. We had our "Hiring Faire" today, and it was really fun!  I interviewed with two different schools, and both interviews were incredible.  They always say to "be yourself" on a job interview, and during mine, I felt that I really was being myself, and myself was an excellent candidate for a teaching job.  All of the reading I've done over the last year has paid off, and whenever they asked me my ideas for anything, I actually had really good ideas!  I found myself coming up with these great answers for questions and all of these great ideas for my classroom, and referencing different books I'd read with different theories, and I think I really impressed my interviewers! I've definitely had my moments of doubt so far during Induction where I wonder what on earth I'm doing here, but during the Hiring Faire today, I had an unbelievable sense of rightness.  I am supposed to be a teacher, and I am exactly where I'm supposed to be.  I really need to hang onto that feeling when I have my many more (and more intense I'm sure) moments of doubt.  But it was reassuring, and carried me through what could've been a tedious afternoon. Our sessions today were more about the Delta and its history.  I went to one about staying beyond your two-year TFA commitment, and one about the literary heritage of the Delta.  The first was was okay -- my "takeaway" from it (in TFA speak) was that you can really have an incredible impact in the Delta, even if you're young and don't have a lot of money.  A lot of Delta alums have started some really cool non-profits and really contributed to some very real changes, and that was cool to hear.  But overall, the session wasn't really what I needed, and some of my peers felt the same way.  All we can think about is how incredibly hard this next year will be, and we don't even have the mental space to think beyond that. The second session I went to was absolutely incredible.  It was on the "literary heritage of the Delta" or something like that, and I didn't really feel like going, but I'm SO incredibly glad I did.  The speaker was this very dynamic black woman.  The best word I can use to describe her -- her persona, her story, everything -- is "magnificent".  She was just a magnificent and she had all of us hanging on her every word for the full hour and a half -- in fact, I didn't want it to end.  Anyway, she told her life's story and how she had gotten into teaching, and all of the incredible adventures she's had.  She really has a passion for teaching and it was amazing to hear her speak about her very real love for her students. As if that wasn't enough, she went on to tell the story of Ida B. Wells, someone I'd never heard of before.  Ms. T (the woman who spoke today) assumed the character of Ida B. Wells, and told Ms. Well's story as if it was her own.  Both the telling and the story itself were absolutely incredible. Basically, Ida B. Wells was this incredible woman at the turn of the 20th century who was incredibly active in the anti-lynching/equal rights movement and in the women's suffrage movement.  She had this amazing, full life, and did some really incredible things.  She was a writer throughout her life, and really used writing to spread awareness of lynchings and the incredible injustices that were being ignored, especially in Mississippi and the South.  Here's the Wikipedia article about her: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ida_B._Wells. (I still haven't figured out how to do that cool hyperlink thingy). My favorite story from Ms. Wells' life was when she was riding on a train from Memphis.  She had bought a first-class ticket, but the conductor asked her to move to the smoking car or the "Jim Crow car" so that a white man could have her seat.  She refused, and the conductor tried to forcibly remove her from her seat.  She braced herself against the seat and even bit the guy's hand!  He couldn't move her by himself, so the coward went and got two big, burly men to help him.  They were able to forcibly remove her from the train, and apparently all of the white people in the car applauded! (This is where I felt disgusted and nauseous).  But Ms. Wells wouldn't take that lying down -- she sued the railroad company and got a bunch of money! Her life was full of incredible stories like this, and hearing them really made me appreciate the history of the Delta, for all of its anguish and triumph over the years. I could write on and on about how amazing the Delta is and how happy I am to be here, so I guess my sessions today did their job :). At the beginning and end of each day, we have "PD (program director) time", which has come to feel like homeroom to me.  We have it with our "Cohorts", which to me means all of the other math people.  We've been working on things like creating our own vision for our classroom; definitely more directly teaching/leadership related stuff.  It's good, I guess -- some of the things we're supposed to think about/come up with are really abstract, and hard to do because most of us have no idea what our math classrooms will be like.  It's hard to come up with how you want to handle a situation when you have no idea what that situation will be, if that makes sense. The only major difficulty I'm having so far is the rigor of the schedule.  Today I was in sessions or at meals from 7:30 am to 8:30 pm, and then when I got back I had all of this stuff to do --  like paperwork and organizing my things and preparing for tomorrow -- and suddenly it's 12:14 am and I have to be up in 6 hours. I'm realizing very quickly what my priorities are in terms of my personal time, and this blog is right up there.  They give us so much information and so much to think about every day, that pretty much one of the first things I have to do when I get back to my room is just open up a Word document and type type type, just to begin to process it all!  I think I'll be able to learn the most if I continually reflect and record this way, and even if this blog gets monotonous, it's helpful to me :). Tomorrow's our last day of Induction, with Community Dinners tomorrow night and a Catfish Fry in Greenville on Saturday night!  What's been so unexpected and incredible is that people in the Delta really, truly want us to be here, and love us for coming.  There are signs up everywhere: at stores, even at Walmart, and a lot of those places give us discounts, just for being in TFA! So, in conclusion of all of my rambling: 1. I'm exhausted and overwhelmed, but in a good way. 2. I'm glad to be here. 3. This is where I'm supposed to be. A good feeling; I just have to hold on to it now!

 


I made it.. barely

Teaching is the hardest thing I have ever done. I will post more later I promise, but just so you know I made it through today. Barely... but I made it. Some highlights: 1. My talker got all of her raffle tickets taken away from her today.. sad day. 2. I have a student that doesn't speak any English. 3. About 10 minutes before teaching I was told that I would not longer be in the same room.. a.k.a. mad rush to get set up which did not happen before they started showing up. 4. I have a smart whiner.  Student - "But Miss... my hand hurts too much to write." Me - "Well write with your left hand then." Student - "Fine!" Now I can't read her answers.. awesome. 5. My assessment score was LOW. Like really really really low. I worked through a bunch of lesson plans tonight (finally coming along a bit quicker) and I am going to reasses them on Monday. Almost no learning occurred today due to my management skills. 6. Tip - TFA I adore you with all of my heart. And I understand why today happened.. but next time please teach me MGMT skills before throwing me in front of 22 horomonal, rambuctious 7th graders. Thanks. I still have faith in them I promise - more positives later. Off to bed so I can go back to school in the morning. In the Words of Journey, Don't Stop Believin'

 


Things I got out of a job interview (that were not a job)

I am sitting in the Denver airport on my way back to school for graduation, and of course my flight is delayed. So what better time to reflect on the last few days? On Wednesday I interviewed at a school, and although I’m almost certain I did not get the job, it was very interesting in many ways. This school is the most rural placement we have in New Mexico, and it is without a doubt the most rural place I’ve ever been in my life. There is no town; there is the K-8 school, the high school, the chapter house, and one gas station, complete with pumps that date to the 70s and a small convenience store. That’s it for an hour’s drive in any direction. Looking out over the beautiful but desolate landscape, I couldn’t even imagine what it must be like to spend most of your life in that area. How would that isolation affect the way you view your family? Your land? Other people? The world? Yourself? And how would it frame your future, not only through the difficulties of getting an education and having opportunities for success, but also in the way it shapes your mindset of what is normal or possible for you? And then in contrast, what is the responsibility of a teacher in that school, to broaden students concepts of the world while never belittling the roots or culture that keep their families there? I don’t have the answers to any of these questions, but I don’t know that they would have been so real to me had I not gone out there. The next reason it was interesting was that I had the opportunity to chat with a Navajo woman who lived nearby (relatively speaking, still 45 minutes away) who was also interviewing for a job. She was open and friendly, and we chatted idly about traveling and museums, kids and moving. Yet sometimes some things that she said so easily and naturally, as if they were obvious, revealed a way of thinking based on different values than my own. For instance, I mentioned that I felt bad she had to wait so long to interview since all us TFA-ers were before her (there were 11 of us; it took 4.5 hours including waiting time). Her response was that it was good because her son was spending the time with his grandmother, and it was really better that they have some time to spend alone together. Our priority was not wasting too much time; we amused ourselves with computers or books while waiting. She sat, still and calm, content that her time there would mean more time for her son to learn from his grandmother. Family time and learning from elders, even though she was not the one experiencing either of those, were more important. Another example of interesting cultural effects was the casual acknowledgment of traditional taboos. There are some things that Navajos do not talk about or look at, such as snakes (at all times), spiders (except in winter), coyotes (except after the first frost), and bears (sometimes, in specific situations involving bears leading people astray). There are different reasons for these which I am not entirely sure of, except that talking about snakes invites danger. There are also very specific ideas and customs involving death: you don’t speak the dead person’s name (in order to let them go), you don’t look at or go near dead bodies. Some of the ceremonies performed by medicine men in order to rectify the breaking of these taboos can cost $4000 and are a really big deal. Whether people follow them or not depends on how traditional they are, with elders generally being more traditional. The woman I was talking with seemed pretty modern: she had running water in her house (some people don’t, either involuntarily or because they value the tradition of hauling water), had traveled to Canada and other states, and used to live 20 minutes outside Albuquerque before she moved to the reservation. Maybe these are bad measures of non-traditionality, I really have no basis for knowing. But still, the taboos were very real: she told me about a museum she went to and couldn’t tell her mother about, because there were mummies (which are, after all, dead bodies). There was a little pride in her voice when she talked about going to see the mummies, so wanting to learn and see something new that she put aside the taboos. Although I had heard of taboos and cultural differences, I mostly thought they would be subtle value differences or dramatic language ones; I hadn’t considered these specific and detailed practices that touch so many aspects of random life. So obviously the fact that my flight was delayed a further two hours and the fact that I’m sleepy in that this-feels-meaningful-but-maybe-in-the-morning-won’t-seem-so-profound kind of way have aided my reflections in length if not substance. My actual interview with the principal and school board was bizarre, incredibly short and confusingly organized (especially in that no one’s interview seems to have gone anything like anyone else’s), and I don’t think I really got much out of it other than sometimes stuff won’t make sense to me. But all in all, I think the 9 hours I spent driving, waiting, waiting, interviewing, waiting, and driving some more were a valuable experience. I learned a lot.

 


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