Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Last Post - The Next Adventure

Hello Readers and Freinds!

Thank you for all of you comments and support!

Before I dare continue teaching there is a book inside of me which I must extract, lest it interfere with my focus on my students.

In order to write I have decided to spend the next two years on the road before coming back to the class.

I hope you will follow my new blog, about the adventure of writing a book and traveling the world:

I will not say too much here because the first post on the new blog explains it.

Thank you again! I hope to see you all on my new blog.

Friday, June 10, 2011


The Frames of brick model my perspective.
I see in tones of brownish red, black, tan...
The sky,
the sun as it rises between the high-rises to my east.
I see planes overhead, their dull drone bouncing to and fro,
my frames.
I see the clouds, tinged, shifting;
I see them framed from the heavens,
brought to earth and within seeming reach,
just climb high enough
on a side of the frame.
I see faces of colors and shapes, variety abundant in this great... frame.
A frame of mind... a state of mind... New York.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Contemplations in Emergence: innards

The minutes drift away. And then the hours. The mind lays dormant, heaving sighs of fained exhaustion. The world lies before it, yet it cowers in the corner of its own matter. The tangible mocks it, the metaphysical burns it, the existential laughs at it – as it lies in wait for the spark that can never come.
A broken bone will heal with time, a torn muscle will slowly crawl back to its place, the mind is fickle and too weak to recover, so in its decrepitation it will lie.
The hums of life awaken it at times, a ring, a knock, a chirp… but drowsily will it slip back into its doubtful place – content with its subsistence.
Bogged down by the truths it cannot escape, by its own perceptions of what those truths may be – by its fear of what may become truth.

The spirit burns and cannot sit still. It is alerted to potential life and drains itself of energy before it can be realized. Its so much easier for the spirit, for it dreams, and dreams are happy in their vacuous plane. There is no hard battle with the past, the spirit only sees ahead, it does not bother with books of history and the warnings and lessons contained therein. The spirit flies in rarefied air, the better for to soar, to glide unimpeded into the days that rarely come. It knows its immortality and is not afraid, it knows its omniscience and is content – when cast aside our shell it will, so only lighter will be its flight.

Poor soul, stuck atween the nether and the sky. How to reconcile the dust and the wind? The shadow and the light? It’s wise, the soul, slow moving for the burden of eternity which it carries, yet blind to the emptiness it sees afore it. Connected as it is with all that makes us, as it came and has shifted up to this moment to combine and become what we see and feel, it is useless in its impotent quest to explain what could be. Though it presides as best it can over the pulls of the mind and spirit, it too is not unbiased. It knows the truth we share, the existence of which we are made, and its agenda is all to clear: preserve the flux. Let not the parts inbreed, but shift and change and grow wiser for newly acquired experience.

And so the battle rages and we are left to spectate to our delight, unless of course we make the mistake of becoming aware…

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Growing Up

I want to tell you a story. Will you listen?

I want to tell a story that is as much true as it is not, as much about me or you as anyone else.

It’s the story of growing up, which seems is one that has no end. Remember when we would look up and admire and wish to someday become the adults? Do you remember seeing them hold on weary shoulders the weight of our world? How food miraculously appeared on the table, how clothes found their way into the dresser, how the winter nights were bright and warm? It was true, was it not? The baseball gloves came, so did the bikes… not all at once and not every year, but they came. A soccer ball one year, and when we grew a little older, these magicians would produce a photo camera for us to mess with. It may not have been bought new, it certainly was not an SLR, but it allowed you to take pictures and capture the silly moments of your silly life. Do you remember little league? The basketball in winter, the baseball in summer… maybe your cleats were not new, maybe they were not the height of fashion, maybe they weren’t cleats at all, but play on the grass you did and you did not whine that it was slippery did you? You did not care whether it was the right gear. You cared that you were on a field and that at some point a ball would come hurling towards you, and no matter the sun, rain or fear of embarrassment, you were going to catch that ball! Maybe the family would be watching, maybe they would not be there, but catch that ball you must!

They can’t always be there, they’re adults, they have places to go, things to do, money to make – how else will we get the basketball we always wanted? Everything they do is so important, they can’t even take naps! They might pass out on the couch in front of the TV after dinner on Friday night. But they can’t just take a nap whenever they want. Perhaps they want to go to a show, or to a fancy dinner… whatever those grownups like to do. But they don’t go too often, do they? Who will watch you? Who will feed you? If they spend that money on dinner, how can they take you to the lake this summer? Who has the strength to get all dolled up and drive into the city anyway? By the time they get home and shower and change and feed you and make sure you start on your homework and remind you to finish it and not watch too much TV and brush your teeth… what play starts, what restaurant serves food, that late? Can you blame them if they yell, get upset over little things, punish you in unreasonable ways for actions you thought rather reasonable indeed? Can you blame them for being upset at the quality of the food they eat, when all they can smell is the grease from the industrial coffee machines they’ve been fixing, or from the saturating odor of the pizza they have been delivering, or the dry cleaning chemicals they have been sweeping, or the floor wax they spent hours buffing? Can you blame them for not having much to say to you, when they see the privilege in which you live, of which you are unaware, the method by which you attained it inconsequential and irrelevant to you? When they gave it all up, when they turned piles of pennies into dinners, when they forwent their own happiness for your sake… can we blame them at all?

Adults. Grownups. Responsibility. Consistency. Sacrifice. Selflessness. Are these words not alien to us now? How many years do we spend bobbing up and down the sea of “possibility”; no anchor, sorry, we forgot it in our parents basement. The fabric of society is not so relevant, only our happiness, our quest to “find ourselves”, is what matters. Try this – fail. Try that – fail. Go back to school. Can’t find a job? No problem. Try again, and again, and again. Fail, fail, fail. Why?

Because there are no consequences when we fail. We live in a cushion, in the center lane, in the warmth of the encompassing hearth. 30 year old children who spend freely, get hussied up, give ourselves away, expect little if nothing at all from others, uproot as easily as we switch jobs, careers, partners, images, styles. Slaves to our own desires and inconsistencies; fickle like a plastic bag in the wind.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Graduation: A Masters Degree... to what end?

Any sort of “wrapping up” is bittersweet – with accomplishments comes reflection, and with it, inevitably, come doubt, regret, relief and even a little joy. What is interesting is that joy is not the most prevalent, nor long lasting of the emotions. There is a satisfaction that comes with people speaking to you about your potential and accomplishments, with hearing your school called – rising and donning your masters hood, with hearing your name (mispronounced) and receiving a fake scroll in front of family, friends and colleagues. But as quickly as it comes, so it lives up to its ephemeral nature. With cap and gown and hood returned the world re-dawns its truths upon your brow, causing it to knot from the effort of sustaining such thoughts as: now that I owe so much money, how will I pay it back? What if I can’t get hired? What if I am unable to live up to the expectation that my degree creates? Should I continue on and get my doctorate? Why? To what end?
These are the bombarding thoughts, relentless and tireless in their attack upon much earned serenity. But they live in reality, whereas satisfaction only lives in our minds. What’s worse is that for so many of us who have worked so hard for two years earning this degree, especially while teaching full time in some of the neediest schools in the country, thoughts of whether to even continue teaching are so prevalent as to become overwhelming. Low pay, a thankless job (beside the incredible satisfaction of changing lives), the constant worry of being laid-off because of stupid seniority in a union that does little more than take your money and give you insurance, the unreasonable (and not for the benefit of the students) requirements mandated by the state in the form of tests that show us nothing of the student and everything of the corruption of our psyche as a country (that has allowed the greatest nation in the world to have a system of education on the level of third world countries).
This isn’t what I want to think about.
When I started two years ago I was sure I had found my calling, I was sure I would not have to look for a job again, I was sure that if I sacrificed financial security I would be rewarded with incomparable satisfaction of having every day be more valuable than the previous. I was wrong. Now I am interviewing with schools (outside the DOE!!), with the hope that they have the autonomy to allow us (teachers) to do what is right for the kids, not what is right for some ledger in Albany.
What do I tell my students of the value of a Masters Degree, or, god forbid, a bachelors?

-Mr. A.M.T M.S.,Ed

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Teaching: Failure?

The blank page stares back, the rain rattles on the window, the city hums and wails… the mind wonders. What truths can be spoken about a life so fleeting? What truth can remain for more than an instant?

The lives of specks, inconsequential, to be sure, are yet the consummation of our thoughts. I of you, they of me, we of each other, but to what end?

I stare at the specks before me, and they seem so much more, so profound, and in great need, and I lose sight of the non-existent end. Somehow they transform their own inconsequential existence to one of such gravity that I have but no choice at all other than to devote my every thought to them.

How amazing are love and dependence?! How they profoundly transform a man’s philosophy and outlook in an instant, and alter one’s behavior more severely than paralysis itself!

These specks! Scholars still possessed of youth. Toughened by the world and it’s reality, yet still possessive of that tender innocence that melts the anger in my eye, the frustration in my mind, and inspires such sympathy in my soul. From where my vision comes I am still not sure, but I see through the vulgarity, insolence, malice, laziness and hostility. I see the attention starved, the guidance deprived, babes who yearn to suckle for but another moment in the warmth and shelter of their mothers bosom – who perhaps yearn unconsciously, never having spent a moment there… ever.

The question then arises to what degree has their potential been squandered, at what point can the human spirit no longer possess the strength to learn and soar? Which are my failings, and which are those of their parents?
How can I Know?
At the end of the day, at the end of the week – what more could I have done?

What more could anyone have done?

How long can a teacher live with the sense of failure - not knowing it’s cause?

Monday, March 14, 2011

I have Tasted Freedom

I have tasted freedom. It came upon me, engulfed me and rushed past – yet never letting go. There is something of the romantic in riding a motorcycle, something of a century past where a trusty steed and your word were all that you needed (and perhaps a sword). Unlike a carriage, or a car, a horse signifies independence and control. Every one of your steps, indeed, your destiny, is for you to do with as you please. You are exposed to the elements and are thus a part of them – the grander scheme, the Tao if you will. The rush of the wind, the chill on your chin, the soreness of your hands, the funny walk after a ride with too few breaks, the hint of sweat from the non-stop extra dose of adrenaline… But what more, is the life you carry behind you at times – this life entirely dependent on you, like a child, subject to your whims and your desires, to your risks and your mistakes. And then you too become the plaything, as fears are withdrawn and eliminated, contemplations eased and dissolved; the road takes, and gives little in return, but I am thankful for it because so often it is not what we need, but what we have and must expel, that renders us whole.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Lessons: Part 1

Like so many who came afore me, entered I into the city,
full of dreams, yet full of pity.
We came to this great huddled mass,
of buildings – tall, made of steel and glass,
We came to hide, to seek, to plunder,
but came out only hurt and somber.

There is an idea that New York, because of the sheer mass of people that it contains, is a place where one can come to be accepted. The fallacy, dear seeker, is that we, who seek, come for the acceptance of others, when really, it is we who do not accept ourselves. With open heart and open mind we come to this great city and wait… we wait for the doors to open, for the friends to be made, for our life to begin. We do not wait idly, we encourage the process by going out to bars and clubs and social events, we drink and we smoke and we pretend. And yet.

Our lives undulate from success to failure, from that sought after acceptance to disappointment (often with ourselves, but aptly under the guise of scorn for the so-called falsehood of society). We seek validation on social networking sites. How many friends do I have? How many people, to whom I have not spoken in years, will post a happy birthday message on my wall? Who will RSVP my upcoming show? Who will actually show up?

In this, the grandest of cities, the modern Rome, we find the true testament to human insecurity. There is no place, other than L.A., where we parade with pomp and much circumstance to the beat of the unseen puppeteer. Little do we know that WE are in fact the puppeteer. That it is our mutual disdain and insecurity which creates the very society into which we so desperately try to fit, yet are somehow always left on its fringes.

What can I say to the student who wishes to find success in a world where he/she is setting up the very circumstances that will lead to failure? I will say:

Do not play the game, because winning is ephemeral. Create your own and let others play if they wish, just know that it is your own and you determine what is success.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Choice

One day you wake and see the world,
The past seems strange – like one big blur.
The light and sharpness hurts your eyes,
You squint at first – avoid the light.
But you must try,
Must try and see,
The truth as it is –
Your reality.
One day, however, you will find,
That what you’ve tried so hard to see – the light,
Is not, in fact, the light at all,
Only a reflection
Only a suggestion
Only an illusion
And it has left you there to fall.
You will, like all, struggle to make sense,
You will, like all, try to find your place,
But that search will go without reward –
because you’ll look to the world Instead of your soul.

We all have a duty,
And so I have mine,
To give you a map
So your place you can find.
It’s easy, it is!
To lose your way,
It’s easy to do
when you travel all day.
When the sun burns
Your eyes
When the road burns
Your feet
When the wind burns
Your skin
And you forget
Where you’ve been:
Don’t turn your head
Keep fast your eyes
As you keep walking
Remember these rhymes:
Though I live in this place, where in shadows I walk,
Where it’s tough and its dirty and to no one I can talk,
I am in fact here, I’ve made it so far,
no one can remove my desire, nor can they this scar,
Left by the care into which I was born;
when I wasn’t inquired, when I wasn’t inspired,
when I made that first choice, and have made it again –
every day that I live – that defines who I am.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Waking Up in the Dark

It’s hard to wake up in the darkness. I never seem to be able to avoid it though; whether it’s the beginning or end of the year when the sun rises earlier, or the dreary middle, in January, when it accompanies our day for a short while. By the time I get to school the sun has yet to fully clear the towers, so my walk, like my breakfast is in the shadows. The windows of my classroom are narrow and are directly below an overhang – the next floor up extends some 10 feet beyond my windows, completely blocking any direct light. I say good morning to the few students already in the halls.. Some couples sit on windowsills in the hallway, kissing and hugging and talking in hushed voices about things more wonderful than school or temporary housing. Some sit alone in chairs or on the floor, listening to music or staring off into space. I hesitate for a split second before I put my key in the door… twist, push, and flip the two switches of the florescent lights which will serve to replicate daylight for the next 12-14 hours.

Though classes start at 8:20am, by 7:30 there are some students already about; from then on, every few minutes more and more enter the building, the hush is slowly replaced by a roar, the volume going up and down as some open the door to enter my classroom. Some are in my first period class, others just come to say hello, talk or borrow a book.

Maybe I should have been a librarian – I get so giddy when a student asks me for a book!

Perhaps I am a librarian to some degree, my class has more books than most others in the school combined, but the flow is not as rapid as I would like, they still don’t read as much as they should – they don’t see that so many answers to their questions lay between the covers on my shelves. I tell them, I don’t know the answers, all I know is what I’ve lived and what I’ve read. But they rather listen to me or watch a movie. It’s hard to think of oneself as old-fashioned, especially when one is only 28, but I don’t see how they can read a book on their cellphone. Where is the joy of flipping a page? That sense of movement as you near the middle and then start the descent towards the end of the book -when your grip has to change to accommodate for the distribution of pages – suddenly heavy on the left side. How can you feel the churning in your stomach as you see that there are but few pages left and you don’t want the story to end, when there are no pages?. But with a cell phone, or a kindle, or a computer, or an i-pad… they may as well be instructions on how to set up your plasma TV.

I try to instill in them my love for the book, but I am often left questioning my purpose. Is it my job to try to ground them in what may become the obsolete past? Should I focus on preparing them for the world as it will inevitably be? Or try to instill in them the qualities and perspectives that would possibly keep the world from changing so fast, and in such a de-personalizing and degrading way? But for someof my students, neither is of much consequence.

The day has now ended, and even the after-school programs have ended. In the damp and darkness of a New York winter 5pm seems so late already, yet I won’t be leaving for hours yet to come. I step outside my hole, to perhaps to have a walk down the hallway, or a stretch, but mostly to see who is still around –to convince myself that I am not yet left alone. Most students are by now gone, yet some linger still – practicing a dance for an upcoming show, chatting with friends, avoiding going home, or just aimlessly sprawled on the couch in front of my door.

Though my students know that I speak Spanish, I think they often forget and continue on their way, babbling about nonsense or which teachers they like, or which boys or girls they like. Today however the three on the couch were babbling about how Isabel is pregnant - again. She is a heavier set girl from the Dominican, 18 years old, the mother of a 5 year old, and now, with another on the way. She doesn’t seem fazed, her friends are happy for her, her family thinks it is but another blessing. I stand there staring at her, her almond eyes – blank and careless. Those eyes and her refusal to speak English serve as giant “fuck you’s” to those who have tried to help her. I try to be nonchalant, I ask her when it’s due, how is she feeling… she just laughs and continues to stuff her face with her third bag of potato chips.

-Que lo que mister?

“Mister”. The extent of her English for the majority of our conversations.

-Nothing, I just want to make sure you are doing alright. Do you know whether you want to keep the baby?

- claro! Offcourse!

- I hope you can stay in school… do you want to stay in school?

- siii

- who will take care of the baby while you’re in school?

- si, mi madre.

- are you sure? Did you ask her?

- offcourse. Mi madre…

- Isabel! English!

- mai moder… she take care of da baby.

- where is your first child?

- wit mai moder…

- oh. I see. That’s good. And she wants another one?

- siii

-well, at least you will get to stay in school. You are very lucky to have such a mother…

It is hard not to feel little when you are met with indifference. I may be the teacher, I may have lived a life I would not wish on my enemies, I may be older and an authority figure with experience – but she just doesn’t give a damn. My help is not for her.

They know I care, they know I am always available to talk or to help or something… and it may mean something to them; perhaps it makes them feel good that there is someone there, but they don’t show it and they live by their own idea about what is right or wrong.

I want to shake her! I want to tell her plainly and honestly how having another baby will destroy even more opportunities for her, how it will set her up to be dependent on social service or some man who will or will not treat her and her kids with love and respect. I want her to see… to see what? My vision of what a successful and happy life is? My white, middle-class, feminist, male perspective of success in 21st century America? And then I think, maybe her having a second child is like me pushing books on my kids, maybe it’s her way of not conforming to what modern society has deemed the right thing to do for someone her age living in the states.

It’s dark again when I step outside the school and start the slushy 5 block walk to the subway. There are days when I don’t see the light at all. It’s hard – waking up in the dark.