Sunday, September 27, 2009

Open Letter to UC Faculty Upon UC Walkout

Dear UC Faculty,

Although I can be polite and diplomatic, I haven't the time or energy. I'm a single parent and a laid off public school teacher. I have a sophomore on one of your campuses and I'm under tremendous stress, so I'm just going to speak plainly.

The UC Walkout? I love the newly discovered (rediscovered?) sense of altruism among you. I hope it's real and that your sudden solidarity with public school teachers under the brunt of Prop 13 is not simply a conveniently played "empathy card."

It's been over 20 years since Prop 13. The universities and colleges of California, and the nation, have been complaining about the decline in skills among the students we send up to you, but you haven't lifted a finger of solidarity on behalf of the public school educators below you, until now, when you face what we've been dealing with for the last 20 to 30 years. As in historical dictatorships, you watched us "carted off" and failed to raise your voices in our support, and now you face the same.

You failed to address the undermining of public school education nationwide in the aftermath of post sixties' social and educational enfranchisement for the poor and those of color. Did it never occur to you that the threat of enfranchisement, to established power at the top, was responded to by undermining the bottom? No longer facing barred doors at the top, the students are now, instead, crippled at the bottom of the staircase. We have been rendered incapable of sending you the quality of students you need.

If you provide universally low education at the public school level, not everyone suffers. Families that already have power and means can make up the difference by providing enrichment experiences (travel, music, sports teams) and tutoring to their children. The poor (and now the middle class) are stuck with what they get in public school. That means the number of income disenfranchised and children of color capable of applying to your universities has been diminished year by year. It also means that those who do manage to arrive are more disadvantaged than their peers of means from the same school. That is a lifetime deficit for which a university experience doesn't always provide remedy. After 30 years, a generation, it is not just our public school students who are undereducated, but now, many of our colleagues, as well. Today, we have a multi-generational culture of low education. This is the new way that power maintains exclusivity in the face of Affirmative Action.

I know you must have discussed the various systemic problems plaguing public school education. But, I want to scream that, over the thirty years of its development, you never seriously addressed this, never set your students on it as a primary research project, never worked at creating the statistical and political means of changing it. What blinded you? Why weren't you curious?

We are your colleagues in education. There is a lot you could have done for us that would have prevented the situation in which you now find yourselves. We needed you to study and report on the hidden "furloughs" we face. We needed you to study teacher turnover and the number of teachers who don't stay beyond their first years, and why. We needed you to survey our health: the level of obesity and prescription drug use amongst us, our rate of counseling use and family problems, our divorce rates, and how these things have climbed. We needed you to document the dwindling amount of time we spend with our families during the school year and how that affects all the facets of our lives. We needed you to assess the amount of money we spend out of pocket, annually, on goods our districts don't cover, but our students need, and what that means. We needed you to go beyond asking what happens to children in overcrowded classrooms and ask what happens to us, their teachers. As colleagues, we needed you, not our unions or faculty senates under their own pressures of self-preservation, to have our backs.

We matter as much as the students; we were students once. And now, we are you.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

One Book a Year / #OneBookaYear

It'd be great to leave a bequest or fund a scholarship at the high school from which each of us graduated, but most of us don't have the means.

However, we can send one book a year to the library at the high school from which we graduated. It doesn't take too many participants, from just a handful of graduating classes, to enrich the offerings of their former high school, on a yearly basis.

Multiplied by ten or twenty years, it becomes a profound contribution.

It's a way to share a piece of yourself with students like you, where you started out. Who knows what windows you may open with just one book?

October is International School Libraries Month. It's the month to send the book.

If you're on Twitter, tweet your book's name and the high school you sent it to, with the hashtag #OneBookaYear. Use the hashtag to look up what's being sent and get some ideas, if you need them.

I've also started a FaceBook group: One Book a Year. Join us, and then post the name of the book you sent, along with your high school's name. Not sure what book to send? Get some ideas there...and go for it!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Handmade Porcelain Buttons


Handmade Porcelain Buttons
Originally uploaded by la_v_i_k_a

On the way to 100 views in my flickr account, these seem to be a hit!

1-1/4" porcelain buttons with a variety of ceramic decal work. Unlike most work of this kind, which is fired thrice, these buttons were single fired to maturity and then refired once to apply the designs.

They are more well-traveled than their maker, having already been to Portland this summer for the Sock Summit...who knows where next. Maybe your home? :)

Several are still available. I'm easily contacted through Etsy:

vika.etsy.com
.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Arrested for Irate Speech, at Home (while being Black)

Black scholar's arrest raises profiling questions - Yahoo! News

Let's put this into perspective.

First, somebody better explain to me how you get arrested for being irate. If Professor Gates did not hit the officer, threaten to hit him, or cuss at him, where is the cause for arrest? Being aggravated? Talking loudly? Being irate?

Protesters are irate and vocally assert their rights, in public. They even shake their fists and wave their arms. They are not arrested. This man was irate over his rights, in his own home, for good reason, and, if the accounts are accurate, he apparently expressed himself on the subject.

When I realize I've made a mistake, I apologize and attempt to make it right. As a public servant, that's what the officer should have done, immediately. The fact that he did something other than the right thing, puts the whole thing into perspective.

.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Getting a Teaching Credential in the 21st Century

.
Don't believe the newspapers. There is no teacher shortage in California. In fact, California has a teacher GLUT and has had a glut since at least 2000. The turnover in teaching would make businesses blanch; comparatively few new teachers stay beyond their third year. Veteran teachers are starting their own businesses, if they can, and leaving, too. Those unique stories of professionals who leave their careers for teaching, getting credit for their professional & life experience, and then immediate wonder-jobs? They are just that--unique.My story starts in the middle. I don't know how long it will take to write. There is so much.

By early spring of 2000, I had finally discovered the process for acquiring a teaching credential in the state of California and made the decision to attend the graduate school associated with the same university from which I’d acquired my BA in 1984. Although it was more expensive than the local state university, I hoped, as the newspapers and many others had claimed, that I would get credit, both for my years of work experience outside of public school teaching, here and abroad, and for work done in the course of completing a masters in counseling. I had previously consulted, for over an hour, with someone in charge of the credential program at the state university. He had carefully and circuitously promised everything and nothing. In speaking with their program’s graduates, both bachelors and masters level, no one praised the program. Virtually all of them said the program was in chaos; they were angry and frustrated. These weren’t naturally angry and frustrated people but all upbeat, energetic and hopeful—the kind with whom I like to work. Still, everyone told me to take the other option, if at all possible. They regretted their choice.

As I went through the process of enrollment, the director, and others, repeatedly told me about the vast number of teaching jobs available in our area and how easily I would be hired upon completion, especially as a multilingual with extensive cross cultural experience. She encouraged me to apply for the Governor’s Teaching Fellowship, a competitive $20,000 award grant that would be forgiven in return for five years post-credential work in a needy school, one that registered a 5 or below on the state’s API scale (a reflection of competence, as determined by testing keyed to NCLB/No Child Left Behind). There was little time left before the application deadline and I scrambled to gather transcripts, written recommendations, and other records for submission. It was particularly difficult to acquire pertinent recommendations, since my undergrad student days were over 15 years past and the materials assumed a recent graduation date. However, in the end, I had everything I needed, except a written recommendation from the program director who had encouraged me to apply. She first composed an unacceptable off the cuff version, without looking at the reward requirements, and then missed the deadline completely, despite my repeated reminders and pleas. I was devastated and had missed other opportunities in the meantime. Had it not been for the Governor’s Teaching Fellowship extending the deadline, I would have been in a real bind. She made the second deadline.

In the meantime, I visited the Registrar to determine which of my previous courses and experiences would be accepted. She offered me nothing! I was in shock. Part of my decision to pursue the credential had been based on newspaper reports regarding the credits available to people with prior work experience and education in other fields. Everyone had been saying how much my bilingual and cross-cultural experience would be worth. I had a masters in counseling that included post graduate level work in child development! I argued and finally she agreed that I could get credit for my master’s level Human Development coursework (my masters work in Cross Cultural Counseling was denied). She failed to inform me that I would have to request this information from the school just outside her office window. When I subsequently discovered the credit had not been granted, she finally informed me but told me that she would ONLY grant credit if the school could provide the original syllabus (from 15 years ago!). Luckily, they did, and she grudgingly awarded me 3 units and cleared my child development requirement. That was all I got.

Three years ago, a district administrator asked me why I had acquired a multiple subject credential, instead of a pupil personnel credential (high school guidance counselor qualification), given my background in counseling. Despite the extended conversation with the credential program Registrar about my counseling background, I was never advised that my counseling degree might qualify me for any other educational position.

Nineteen months later, in fall 2002, just after I completed all of the requirements for my credential and was looking desperately for employment, the program director boldly stated in a newspaper interview that prospects for new credential holders in our area were dismal and that they had been aware of this for quite a while. In a geographically isolated city of approximately 500,000, there are three teacher credential programs turning out new teachers every year under the banner of a local “teacher shortage.” The same article (Fresno Bee, September 2002), reported that Fresno Unified, the area’s largest school district, which had just delivered 300 pink slips, had 2800 applicants registered for 300 available jobs. Credential candidates from the state university had been informed of the situation at completion. Although our own director had long known of the local glut, we were repeatedly told that older teachers were retiring and excellent employment conditions awaited us.

I would soon discover that The Governor’s Teaching Fellowship was a noose around my neck and its conduct no more encouraging.
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Friday, June 19, 2009

Before leaping...

I thought I'd leave a note.

End of semester has come and gone, and I begin to feel refreshed, a brief window before the summer session begins and I am once again at the beck and call of students with mud on their hands.

I've joined a writer's circle, invited, for which I'm grateful. It's been a long time coming, having always been told, "You should write!" What people would do, if they were me...

I couldn't write a word in the two month lead up, anxious not about writing or about critique, both of which I love, but about finally doing so in a formal, and public sense. Oh my. Finally, compelled to write about the block itself, the day of the circle's meeting, I produced. This rendering having benefited from the circle's input, it still feels a little incomplete. Still, not a poor first outing, a good start to whatever may come.


Before Leaping


On the edge

Very Close

At the vertex

where this horizontal plane
vanishes suddenly into perpendicular
absolutism.

Nauseated

Sweating

Vertigo causing me to wonder if
I am thinking from somewhere around
my ankles or from my head
While I struggle to know whether head
can still be located on shoulders
or has been removed to
survey this situation from a safe
but strangling embrace in the fierce crook
of my protective arm

Orientation dissolving

My palms press hard and flat behind me against
the reassurance of granite
while the grit of its disintegration digs into my flesh
and my thoughts
grimy but familiar
providing the distraction that still serves to spare me decision
and anything more than brief,
terrified glances over the precipice.
.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Evolution...really??

Another migration from the old site. The end of the semester approaches; soon, I'll have real energy for something new. Until then, vintage.


If Bugs Can't Get It Right, Will We Ever?

After a gazillion years of evolution rapider than our own, why are bugs dumb enough to crawl on us? We're almost 100F in temperature, usually either a good deal warmer or a good deal cooler than our environment (due to a love of snow sports and the idea that tropical heat is a "vacation"--it's ok, we evolve much more slowly) and you'd think they'd notice? Isn't that differential the way mosquitoes find us, in the dark, while we're sleeping? OK, so mosquitoes do crawl on us and die, but at least the risk is worth it: they're propagating the species.

Most of the bugs that walk on us aren't. They can't kill us, they can't even get a decent mouth full, nor do they scavenge shed skin or any other biproduct. Are we the neighborhood shortcut? What's on the other side? Something worth dying for? I look on both sides of my mattress, both sides of any place I'm sitting, and they look the same. Why risk it?

Do bugs have rights of passage? "OK, now you have come of age and must find a human to cross. If you live, you will be a man-bug, a soldier ant, a worker and no longer a lowly white, soft useless..." Or maybe bugs have thug rituals. "You wanna join our gang? You wanna join OUR gang!??? OK, then you see that human over there..."

Then again, maybe they get a buzz off that spilled soda on the counter and start one upping each other. "I dare ya to walk on that vika's arm, go ahead I dare ya, you scaredy-cat, chicken-livered..." It's depressing. Not only do they outnumber us, they get a million generations to get it right in the span of just one of ours--and they still have no more common sense than the average toddler.

If bugs rule the world and they can't get it right, do we even have a chance?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Alarm Bell


Alarm Bell
Originally uploaded by la_v_i_k_a

It's been a long time since I nailed a really good one, or even tried.

If people could get what they want, would alarm bells ring?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Moving Along, and the Problem With Heirs

Well, moving along. For several years I had my postings elsewhere and by now I'm satisfied that this is "home." I'd like to work toward cleaning up and closing down the old place but really didn't want to lose some of the writing, so I thought I'd move it over here bit by bit, on occasion.

That said, what follows is certainly apropos to this month, with St. Patrick's Day barreling down upon us. My family was quite a mixture and it made for interesting interpretations and events during childhood...

The Problem With Heirs

Aside from us children (a million cousins) who were all born here, my family was full of people who came, recently, from somewhere else. I was not confused about who we were; we were just us. But, at times, those adults in the leading generation could definitely do and say some interesting and confusing things.

On my father's side, we borrowed words from German and French to talk about things which, in polite conversation, are not normally mentioned. English euphemisms were not good enough; they had no feel, no real grip. It was difficult to wield them.

And so for example, our bottoms, when mentioned, were not bums, or tusches or rear ends (that one made eyes roll). No, our bottoms were popos or derrieres. Which was just fine; we knew which end was up.

Even though both were equally foreign, the two sides of my family were quite different. Mom's side drank beer, my father's side regularly drank wine. Their side sang regularly, my father couldn't carry a tune in a bucket.

It was singing, as it crossed paths with bottoms, that caused me the greatest confusion. Being Irish, Danny Boy was a great favorite with my mother's side and, being intent upon preserving culture, the adults NEVER failed to inform me that the name for the tune was "The Londonderry Aire," each and every time we sang it. And, each time I heard this, I would feel particularly appalled and look around surreptitiously at each adult to see how they were reacting. And, there was never any reaction, they just named the tune and then sang it.

I, however, always sat there totally mystified, trying to fathom the connection between old Danny and my family's earnest appreciation for London's claim to a song-worthy bottom.

And that, is the problem with heirs.


Monday, March 2, 2009

Buttons at Stitches West 2009


booth pics 047
Originally uploaded by Anzula

Quick post here! My buttons this last week/weekend at Stitches West, in Santa Clara, California. Sabrina, of Anzula, does the yarn and fibers...and hosted my buttons!

Go ahead and click on the image--the larger version ("All Sizes" option on Flickr) is great!

Busy week for me--I hope to have buttons up on Etsy by Friday, if not sooner. I've recently added three necklaces...more jewelry coming soon.

vika.etsy.com

Sunday, February 8, 2009

My Buttons are in Stitches!


Unloading
Originally uploaded by la_v_i_k_a

These buttons (and others!) are headed up to the SF Bay Area with Sabrina Famellos-Schmidt, at the end of this month, for:

STITCHES West 2009
at the Santa Clara Convention Center
February 26th through March 1

You can find them on the Market Floor here:
Anzula
Booth 1037

I've blogged recently about a visit to Sabrina's house while she and friends were dyeing. That same day, she agreed to take my buttons with her to Stitches. Ever since then, I've been working my buttons off...

Pics below of her yarns, or visit her blog, too:
http://anzula.blogspot.com/

Friday, February 6, 2009

100 Green Buttons


100 Green Buttons
Originally uploaded by la_v_i_k_a

100 Porcelain buttons in the green state.

I started handbuilding with clay years ago and enjoy photography, very much. The processes from both have influenced how I make buttons.

I don't have button molds.

Instead, I roll and texture entire slabs with themes that interest me, then crop small vignettes. Each button is the "same," and yet just a little bit different. They go together without looking like they rolled out of a factory. Each one is unique.

These have already been cut, hand smoothed, drilled, and all edges beveled (including the holes, front and back!). I'm careful to work when the clay is leather hard, not completely dry; it cuts down on dust.

Next? I'll be signing the backs with a paintbrush, glazing, kiln loading, and firing.

I only fire once. It conserves energy.

There are 200 more buttons out of camera range!

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Yard-full of Skeins


A Yard-full of Skeins
Originally uploaded by la_v_i_k_a

I met Sabrina Famellos-Schmidt several weeks ago, after making a presentation during a local Pecha Kucha evening sponsored by Arc Hop.

My pendant necklaces are based on spindle whorls and Sabrina spins!

She was kind enough to invite me to her home when she and two friends, Sue and Diane, were dyeing finished skeins. It was amazing to walk into the backyard and see this feast...even more amazing to walk into the garage and view the work that had already been dryed and re-skeined, ready for sale! Eye-popping and jaw-dropping all at the same time.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Large Porcelain Buttons


Large Porcelain Buttons
Originally uploaded by la_v_i_k_a

First batch out of new (new to me) porcelain kiln. The kiln interior is 6"x6" and came with no furniture (shelves).

I made my own out of high fire sculpture clay (lots of grog/resistant to shock and warping). They survived nicely and that saved me quite a bit of money. Plus, they are thinner than commercial shelves, so...I can fit more in the kiln!

These buttons are approximately 1-1/4" diameter. All but the bottom button are approximately 1/8" thickness. The bottom button is more suitable as a toggle, or for use on heavy material; it is approximately 1/4" thickness.

The left and top button were pressed in molds made of cast-off machinery parts.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Flowered Bottle


Flowered Bottle
Originally uploaded by la_v_i_k_a

Flowered Bottle

Spontaneous and unplanned; I think it made itself.

Handmade porcelain tile and kiln polished glass cabochons laid out for setting on glass bottle with inset circle. Look for lively green grouting on this mosaic later!