Monday, April 24, 2006


Tonight, I submitted my last assignment for my introductory library science course. Woohoo!!

While the class was very basic, it did whet my appetite for the "real" classes to follow. After submitting my assignment, I filled out the FAFSA. I realized last week that if I want to take 3 courses this summer then I will have to get some financial aid. I thought I might be able to get by without borrowing, but there is no summer payment plan. Damn being a under-paid, single teacher!

Another disappointment, the Astros' closer Brad Lidge blew a save--giving up a grand slam in the top of the ninth. Damn!

Since then, I have been adding music to my iPod. I bought it Easter weekend and had only put 3 albums on it. Before I go to bed, though, I will have it loaded with tunes. Now, I have to use it often to make it worth the money I spent on it. I know I will use it walking, which I must get in the habit of doing again. Also, I need to purchase some home speakers for it, then I will feel like I spent money wisely, a feeling that I seldom have.

It's 11:30 now, so I better get to bed. I stayed up late the past two nights and swore I wouldn't do the same tonight. I think my brain and body are ready for summer vacation. I just want to stay up late every night and watch tv and read. Alas, I have another month of work, so it's off to bed I go.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The 3rd & Final Post for the Night

I have been a member of a Unitarian Universalist church for a couple of months. I started attending this church about two years ago. I really like going to a church where fear is not the motivating factor for membership. I have long thought that the more I learned and read, the less I bought the whole evangelical Christian faith.

The church I belong to has two ministers, one female and one male. Usually, I enjoy the female minister’s sermons more than the male's. He is more emotional and generally lacks focus. He always has a good premise but gets off track and seems to have difficulty getting back to his point. Two Sundays past, he was surprisingly focussed. He gave the best sermon that I have ever heard him give. I even shook his hand and said, “Great sermon.” on the way out the door; usually I either bypass the line or shake hands without uttering much of anything comprehensible. That sermon was the kind of sermon that I started attending that church for.

The title of the sermon was “I’m not a Christian, But… (You can listen to it online, but the sound is not very good, at least not on my computer.) The sermon was inspired by an article by Robert Jensen, an atheist who has become a member of a Presbyterian church in Austin. The minister talked about his desire to name himself in the same way that Jensen had in a recent article on the Presbyterian church's website. . Jensen calls himself secular Christian or a Christian atheist. For a long time, I have been trying to come to terms with my current belief system, which is very different from the reality of growing up in Southern Baptist Church and joining a different Southern Baptist Church as an adult.

Now that I am a member of a Unitarian Universalist church, I feel a stronger need to define myself and my beliefs. In addition to secular Christian or a Christian atheist, the minister identified these choices: religious humanist, Trinitarian Universalist, ethical Christians, liturgical Christians--none of these seem to be a perfect fit. The minister said his core belief is something like this: humans are good, humans were created in good, and we love each other as sisters and brothers--I could definitely get behind thtat belief. He also spoke about the mystic oneness of humans and the world, which reminded me of the Transcendentalists’ Oversoul. A concept that I have always had an affinity for.

So I left church feeling really good about being a UU, but I’m still not sure how to label myself. Maybe I don’t need a label. Maybe I just need to try to love others like sisters and brothers. Maybe I will listen to the sermon online--bad sound and all--and take better notes this time, and maybe I should read Jensen's article. After that and some thought, I'm sure I will post again on this topic. I know you will be waiting breathlessly for that post. Yeah, right.

Now, it's time to stop all this blogging and go to bed.

Student Protesters - A Teachable Moment

Last month, when students from high schools in California and Houston started skipping school to protest immigration reform, I asked some of my co-workers at lunch, “Where are our students?” Over 50% of our students are Hispanic, but they were not protesting, and many didn’t even seem to know that protests were occurring. Too many of them don’t seem to know what’s going on in the world outside their community. Much to my delight, on Thursday of that week, a group of them did walk out. I’m not sure how many, but it was somewhere between 50 and 60 , mostly sophomores and freshmen. I was glad to see them get involved, even if many of them didn’t really know what they were protesting. I figured that if enough people asked them why they were protesting then they would be motivated to find out to keep themselves from continuing to seem ignorant.

Apparently, the principal and the local police chief had prepared for the possibility of a walkout, so the reaction was reasonable and calm. The principal at first said students would be punished for skipping school, and their punishment would depend on their current status in the discipline plan. Later in the day, it was revealed that the principal and the superintendent had decided to educate rather than punish our protesters. After the protest, the superintendent had met with the students and promised to spend a day with them in ISS (in school suspension). On Wednesday, of the following week, the students were assigned to spend the day in the Large Group Instruction room. They began the day with the government teacher explaining to them how laws are enacted as well as helping to understand why some people desire immigration reform. A LULAC representative followed. From what I understand, he spoke to them about positive ways to get their voices heard such as joining organizations like LULAC. He also told them his story, the moral of which was apparently that education and voting are a must if they truly want a better life.

After all the talk, I instructed the students on how to write a letter to their senators. I hate to miss my classes, ever, but I felt like I couldn’t say no when the department chair asked me to do help. I really didn’t have much time to prepare, and the only letters that I write to my representative are action alerts from TFT or the ACLU. I felt kind of fraudulent. Anyway, I gave them a quickly created handout, which consisted some general writing tips, and a model letter, copied from the ACLU action alert on the same topic (I'm sure some of the conservative members of our faculty & staff, which means most of them, would disaprove of my choice, but it's too late now.) and talked just a few minutes about the proper tone of such a letter. Then the students got to work. I was pleasantly surprised at the diligence of some of these students. Some of them were really trying hard to write a good letter; some of them had a real immigrant, legal and illegal, story to tell. They had to write a rough draft, get assistance with editing/revising, then write a final draft. The school district promised to mail all of the letters.

At the end of the day, the superintendent spoke to the students. He applauded their good behavior for the day, appreciated their concerns on this issue, patted himself on the back for keeping his promise to them (not surprising, of course), and encouraged them to stay in school. He told them that if they walked out of school again that the punishment would be the usual punishment for skipping school. He assured them that they would not be prevented from participating in protests, but they must do so with the knowledge that consequences would follow.

I must admit that I didn’t follow up to see that the letters were mailed, but I do feel good for helping the students. That day, I actually felt proud to teach in this district, something that I haven’t felt for a long time. I was so glad to see our campus and district administrators turn this experience into an educational one instead of a punitive one. The cynic in me knows that the choice was made for political reasons--positive public relations are always desired especially when your district is no longer the shining star of state testing. Still, I felt good about the decision to handle the situation in this way and about being a part of the educational process for these students.

Back to Blogging

I haven't been posting or reading blogs much lately. Work and grad school are keeping me too busy. Now the Astros are back in season too, and they are very greedy with my attention. ;-) Anyway, while I was hanging out at my sister's house this weekend, I typed up a couple of posts, things that I have been meaning to blog about. Actually, both are a bit anticlimactic thanks to my procrastination, which is something else that I have been meaning to blog about, but that can wait, of course. Ha! Ha!

I'll do a bit of editing and revising and post them in a few minutes.