Sunday, August 26, 2007


Miss Teen South Carolina U.S.A. on U.S. Education. I hope she's not our new spokesperson on the issue!

I guess Courtney was too smart to be Miss South Carolina.

Hawaiian Produce

Produce, not surprisingly, grows remarkably well here. This being a near-perfect tropical climate, a huge range of fruits and vegetables flourish. The downside is, however, that in this global marketplace, it's more efficient to grow most things elsewhere. Thus brings the paradox of seeing trees laden with mangoes on my drive to school, yet seeing "Imported from Mexico" stickers on the $2.50/lb mangoes at Safeway. Or knowing that in many backyards in Hawaii, avocados are dropping like stones right now, yet the grocery stores are charging $2.50/lb for ones imported from Chile.

Alas, a few weeks ago one of my teacher friends from school told me about the local farmer's market. Come to find out, on Sunday mornings, just two miles from our condo, there's a wonderful market with a wide range of local produce. The market is sponsored by a division of the Parks and Recreation Department, and vendors are mandated to offer their produce for about 35% below grocery store prices.

We've since been stocking up on mangoes, apple bananas (short and tangy - much more flavorful than the average banana), avocados, papayas and much more. I'm in heaven! Check out this week's catch below.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Broken Arm

This is a photo of Jacob and Angelica. Jacob is a bright and mischievous guy - very easy to love. Angelica is extremely shy, but very devoted. She was one of my biggest success stories last year, making close to two year's growth in reading comprehension and fluency. She recently broke her arm. This makes things awkward for her, as she's right-handed, so is still using the arm to write. When she's not writing, she often rests it on her desk, elbow down, forearm sticking up in the air. I've now called on her countless times, thinking her arm is raised for a question or comment. This usually startles her, as, because of her shyness, she definitely doesn't like to be called on unsuspectingly. We both usually get a good laugh when this happens.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Young College Hopefuls

I've been trying to subtly lead my students to believe that college, for them, isn't really an "option", it's a given. I registered as a prospective student on a few Hawaii and West Coast university Web sites, and my kids enjoy looking through the college viewbooks. If any of you have any old posters or pennants or anything from your alma maters, I'd love to display it in class. Just shoot me an email for my address.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Hurricane Flossie

I've received a few calls and emails regarding Hurricane Flossie. As it stands now, it should bypass us on Oahu. If you look on the map below, worst-case scenario is that it hits the Big Island which on the map, is the biggest island. Oahu is one of the ones to the left of it, so we're sort of in it's shadow. I imagine we'll get some rain, and the winds have been pretty strong all day today, but no need to worry!

Thursday, August 09, 2007


Sometimes I feel as if my students are supremely limited in their written communication. Most of them speak Hawaiian Creole Pidgin at home, so writing in Standard English is really difficult - particularly with regard to grammar.

Today we began a unit on poetry, one we unfortunately didn't get to last year. I think it will be a great way for them to throw off the bowlines in their writing, as in poetry, conventions matter very little. Today was a great start - here are some of my favorites. The rules were: no more than three words to a line; no rhyming words.

Braces, by Shayna
Heavy weighted metal.
I'll be heavier.
5 pounds or more.
Bright Lights
Laughter of people.
Giggling around school.
Teasing my braces.

Lunch Lady, by Lyric
I wonder who
is she mean
is she ugly
I hope not
I hear her
saying next loudly
what will happen
will she give
gross food
like eyeballs
or ears or
hands I wonder

Moving Away, by Bailey
throat tightens
tears settle in
lips shut
eyes open
heart turns cool
black out
knees weakening
think of memories
walking away silently

Scared, by Henriette
I was scared
at Maili Beach
A fight started
With my uncle
I was frightened
and started crying
Then cops came
and stopped it.

Untitled, by Jacob
Mr. Landry isn't good
No rhyming words
How could he
I love rhyming
He's still Mr. Landry
He's my teacher
I'm his student
can't do anything
I'll tell Ms. Owen
he took off
his wedding ring.

Supreme Awkwardness

So many situations as a male teacher are awkward. Number one in my book is the hug. As a compassionate individual with 33 young people around everyday, there are countless situations when at any other time, a hug would be a natural occurrence or remedy. The last day of school, when a kid is sick or his or her feelings have been hurt, etc. But alas, I have resorted to the half-hug, and only when initiated. Ka'aina, of previous posting fame, is a bit clingy, so he gets a lot of half-hugs (one arm around the shoulder).

Other awkward situations are one-on-one situations, i.e. tutoring, or when I keep someone in from recess. I basically just make sure there is always more than one student in the room, and parents sometimes request that other students be there if their kid is going to stay for extra help.

One particularly awkward moment was when on the day after school let out I called a couple of students to come help me clean my room. They'd said they wanted to the day before, but try explaining that to a parent. "Hi, can Angelica come to school (when school's out for the summer) to help me scrub some desks?" Courtney can do it and have parents think nothing of it, but if Mr. Landry does it, it's pretty weird.

So, that brings us to today. None of the previous awkwardness has even compared. See, I have a whiz in my class named Josiah. He's a brilliant little guy, part Hawaiian, part Korean. He's incredibly disorganized and habitually late, but so perceptive. He's truly gifted. The latest reading comprehension diagnostics I gave him put him at an 8th or 9th grade comprehension level. This is fantastic in itself, but presents a few minor challenges. The first being I teach 5th grade. Therefore, my classroom library is geared towards 5th graders. I don't have many options for him to have a challenging read. I do, however, have a couple of books. One of which is To Kill a Mockingbird.

On the second day of school, Josiah picks up To Kill a Mockingbird. My initial instinct was "Sweet!!" What teacher wouldn't want his student to pick up that book on his own? But after he took it back to his desk, I started thinking about the content. I remembered that the premise is a rape trial, though, of course the book is about so much more than rape. I thought about how relatively liberal my parents were with me growing up and how if I came across anything I was unfamiliar with, they generally never held information back.

I took the book away, but said I'd call and talk to his parents about it. So today I rang his mom, invited them to open house, then brought up the book. I explained that Josiah was reading on a super-high level, and that makes some books with mature topics accessible for him. I asked if she knew of the story To Kill a Mockingbird, and she said no. That should've been my first clue, but I went on. "Well, this story has a rape in it," I explained, "and I wanted to know if you were ok with him reading it and would just like to talk to him about the content first." Awkward pause. "Oh, no, I don't want him reading stuff like that." I ramble a bit about how I just wanted to check with them first and stuff. Awkward pause # 2. "Well, ok, I hope I see you guys at the open house, bye!"

Ahhh! Lorrdez, my fun-loving, matter-of-fact co-teacher (she teaches math), said I should call her back and explain what the book is about, but I just fear that would make things even more awkward. But I don't know - as it stands, Mr. Landry called to see if Josiah could read a book about rape. Hmm. I just wonder if this would've been as awkward if it were Courtney calling a parent.