Friday, June 26, 2009

Bittersweet Symphony

The bells no longer ring.
The halls are empty.
The boards are blank.
No laughter in the cafeteria.

No flitting of pages in notebooks.
No bodies pressed tightly going up and down the staircase.
There are no chairs scraping against the floor.
And no desks decorated with grafitti.

As a teacher, one is happy on the last day.
However, I see it as a bittersweet symphony.

Monday, June 15, 2009


I find myself confused. It is the last day of classes. The final review of material before students take their state exam, the Regents. Why are the halls empty? Why are the classrooms at a quarter capacity? I shake my head and wonder, "Was I like this when I was a teenager in high school? " Of course, as a teenager, I liked school. It was my escape from the chaos and insanity at home.

I asked my colleagues. Some gave the typical cynical answer. "These kids don't care about their future, so why should we?" Some said that the students have working hard all year long and one day of rest won't really make a difference. I believe that we have failed them, if in fact, they "don't care" about their education. Today should be that last push, that one last chance to study/ review for exams.

At times, I truly believe that we as a society do not place enough emphasis on education. I look at other countries where schooling and educators are revered. I then compare it to the NYC high school where I teach. There is no comparison. I often appalled at the lack of respect for education and teachers. But how do we make it better? I am already counselor, mother, friend, teacher and everything else under the sun. What more can a teacher do to ensure that her students take education seriously, especially in this economy.

So here I sit, planning lessons for today and no students to teach.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sibling Rivalry

Perhaps when I was younger, times and attitude were different. I remember taking care of my younger siblings. I recall ironing their school clothes on Sundays, feeding them breakfast in the morning, taking them to school and picking them up afterward.

This afternoon, my older daughter asked if she could have ice cream. I explained to her that the freezer had defrosted and she must check to see if the ice cream is edible. My younger daughter skips after her and asks if she could have ice cream. My older daughter yells, "No. Get out of here. Leave me alone." Of course, as all little children do, my younger daughter ran to my room and asked for ice cream. I was perplexed to say the least. I had to call my older daughter and explain the idea of "Am I my brother's [in this case 'sister's'] keeper."

This was a daunting situation. I had to explain to my older daughter, in great detail, that the younger one is only five years old. She must have everything explained to her. Would it have been too difficult to tell her, "I am going to check if the ice cream is good. If it is, I will give you some. If it's not, then it must be thrown in the garbage." I discussed this issue with my older daughter. Her expression told me all. Not one ounce of what we discussed entered her brain. She feels the victim.

I had forgotten how self-centered teenagers can be.

Friday, June 12, 2009

First Kiss

I wrote this four years ago. It was an early memory of a difficult time in my life. Here we go . . .

Bronx Tales: First Kiss

The kiss itself was not all that memorable. It was the consequence of the kiss that I will never forget. Apparently, a boy named Kemone in my second grade class, wrote a note about kissing me after school. I remember happily skipping home from C.E. S. 90x (Community Elementary School) on Sheridan Avenue in the Bronx. My building was only half a block away, but I felt as though I was gliding in slow motion. I could feel my heart beating underneath my blouse and that sudden elation of giddiness one gets when you‘ve acquired what you have been waiting for. The world seemed bright and the possibilities endless. I was thinking, “Does he really like me? Is he my boyfriend now that he kissed me? Does it matter that he’s not Puerto Rican and doesn’t speak Spanish? Will he ask for another kiss?” While all of this ran through my mind, I hadn’t realized that I was only seven years old and shouldn’t be kissing boys.

My grandmother lived on the second floor and my mother often told me to go there after school. I was busily doing my homework at grandma’s kitchen table. You could smell the fried chicken, rice and beans permeating the entire apartment. I left everything at the table and went to use the bathroom. When I returned, to my horror, my nosey cousin read aloud the note which said “Shaharizan, do you like me. Check yes or no. If yes, meet me after school for a kiss.” My mother just happened to come into the kitchen. She had a look which was a mixture of exhaustion, shock and anger. I was rooted to the spot. I calculated how long it would take me to reach the front door of the apartment and escape into the street. I took too long. My mother grabbed me into grandma’s living room. She spanked me so hard, I couldn’t sit properly for two days. I didn’t kiss another boy until fifth grade. Oh and my cousin . . . Well let’s just say her hair was mysteriously cut one evening and she ended up with a short page boy rather than the long locks she was accustomed to.