Tuesday, September 29, 2009


is a memorable month as it provides the last hot days of summer, like the season’s last tomatoes. And while it heralds the waning of light and the coming of cold, its balmy days and cool nights are comfortable, still. But most appreciated is its sunlight, not the garish light of summer with washed out colors and down-cast shadows. Its warm angled light is gorgeously sets everything in its best side—sky, trees, structures, people and air itself—in flattering light. Even the sun itself shows off. Over the weekend I saw the sun set, a molten glob of gold sinking slowly into the ocean leaving only a warm rosy smudge between the sea and sky.

Monday, September 28, 2009


I bought the San Francisco Chronicle the other day. The viability of newspapers has been in question for several years especially how the Internet has eaten into their subscriptions but the economic downturn has exacerbated their downfall. It cost 75¢ ($1.00 if purchased at a retail establishment) and it sadly, it is a pale shadow of what it used to be. While it is more colorful, it is thinner and narrower and has fewer features and articles: its text is larger and there is much more “space”. The front page has banner advertisements and includes a one-page (what used to be two pages) OpEd at the end of the section. The relatively substantial regional Bay Area section is combined with the business section. The Sporting Green front page is once again tinted in green. The Datebook contains the entertainment features, the movie and TV listings, comics, and classifieds. Over the summer I lamented that the Wednesday food section has disappeared. I fear examining the Sunday paper as to how it has been gutted. In the future we may simply have a one-sheet broad sheet with all the sections on it.

Newspapers have a place in our society. Newspapers had the role in documenting pivotal events in history—that magazines and TV just couldn’t do. Even our little histories like births, wedding announcements, and deaths were documented and saved in newspapers. But I lament the cultural place newspapers had in our world. The experience of tingeing one’s fingers with ink after reading the paper will no longer be. I remember my mother cutting out coupons to use at our local grocery store. Old newspaper was used to line our bird cages, to wipe down our windshields, make piñatas and papier mache masks, We used line our bird cages with old newspaper, or used improvisationally to swat flies.

I acknowledge my lack of patronage to the newspaper’s demise. The fact that I get my news via the radio (NPR) and that I (and so many others) find little time in daily life to read the paper. But the death of newspapers. is a real concern not to have a space for democratic discourse, to have investigative reporting, to examine what is happening in other parts of the world and to have a paper of record in our communities. But perhaps this is a temporary challenge for newspapers who will be transformed in ways we will find more useful—I hope.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Java on Ocean

On Saturday, I spend a good chunk of the morning in Java on Ocean drinking coffee and reading the Chronicle. The place has what Desiree calls “old San Francisco”—an unsleek, comfortable place with good service and food owned by locals.

It is open from 6 am to 9 pm and run by a Middle Eastern man as evidenced by the food and art. The café has a spacious sitting area with a variety of miscellaneous furniture; benches, sofas and coffee tables, tables & chairs, two computer stations—giving it many options for people to interact and to socialize or not. It has outside furniture for the rare days of beautiful San Francisco weather. The weekly tabloids of the Guardian and SF Weekly are readily stocked for available reading material and decorated in posters of current events in the city. The place’s soundtrack is eclectic acoustic world music I has a canary which trills happily on occasion, which reminds me of my father who used to raise canaries. It attracts a variety of patrons; city college students and professionals, young bohemian types and pensioned seniors, Asian, White, and African-American. It is a wonderful place to take a zebra mocha (dark and white chocolate) and read.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The most challenging part of my job

This past week I had my first negative encounter with a student this year. I was in a classroom supporting a teacher manage assessments, while I directed the class in a rather boring lesson. He didn’t follow directives on a couple of occasions so I kept in for recess and he became angrier and angrier. Later in the day in dropped in on the classroom and he was demonstrating a defiant, incompliant and disrespectful behavior. I was surprised how fearless this short fifth grader was towards his teacher and me. My stating his address or his mother’s name did not seem to faze him. On Friday, his teacher and I made a home visit to his mother, whom I had met before two years ago. The visit was friendly and illuminating. We got support from her, but we also realized that his home provided little if any structure for improving his academics—there was no expectation that C do any homework at home. We now have clear options if we encounter a defiant and uncooperative C.

But I realize that it is these clashes that drain me emotionally. Yes there is the physical exhaustion from managing the cafeteria or the play yard at lunch. There is the intellectual challenges of trying to solve scheduling problems or in finding pedagogical approaches that will work with particular students. But it is the emotional clashes with students or parents that is the most difficult part of my job. And I wonder how long I will have the inner resources to replenish me.

I also recognize the need to build up my cultural competence with my African American families. While our African American students comprise some 15% of our student body they represent over 50% of the behavior problems we have at our school. Building the bridge of trust between our African American families and the school is one of the most important challenges we must take on. I, as a teacher, must build my cultural competence with my African American students so that there is a presumption of trust and understanding so I can get beyond management and discipline and into instruction.

by Kalin & Xavier

Kalin by Xavier

Megumi, myself and Yoriko at City View Dim Sum in Chinatown

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Back at IRFing

Now that I am back at school I realize that I am very competent in my job. My organizational skills, my knowledge of the history of the school and my relationships with colleagues, families, students, and support personal serve me doing my job well that I hope makes an effective impact on the school.

But being competent can be a stumbling block. I have a wealth of knowledge and experience since I have been at the school for some 16 years. But specific interactions with colleagues and superiors that make me feel that my suggestions are dismissed, give the impression that they have a better way of structuring the school, or am seen as someone to be directed but not consulted, make me feel slighted. My competence then becomes hubris that is impatient or stubborn or unyieldingly focused and deafens me or blinds me to the reality beyond the surface. So instead of listening to the words behind the words, I take them at face value and instead of winning advocates on my team, I become defensive and push back. And in this work it is too hard to work alone: we must work as a team.

Monday, September 7, 2009


Pedazos para un retrato by Maria Lopez Vigil is a compilation of remembrances of Oscar Romero, the assassinated Archbishop of San Salvador. The book recounts stories of the this individual from when he was a young boy to the anguished prophet he became in defending his people. The “biography” creates a more complete picture of the man than any one author could have written.

People who know me also know fragments of me. My parents and siblings know what I was like as a youth. My friends in school could recount what type of student I was. Those who have worked with me in my illustration capacity can vouch for the quality of my art and my dependability as an artist. My spiritual director knows the moral struggles and interior journeys. My coworkers can attest to my qualities and competence as a teacher, a colleague and a coach. And my friends and intimates can point out my strengths and my foibles as a human being. Then there are whispers and scribbles I reserve only for God and myself. I realize that you my blog reader also has a piece of me. You may or may not know me but you get a purview of who I am that is not necessarily evident in my life. It is a reflective writer or artist who ruminates on particularities of life while conscious of the vastness and irretractibility of the cyberuniverse.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

turning point: Mark 5: 21-43

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea. One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, "My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live." He went off with him, and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, "If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured." Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who has touched my clothes?" But his disciples said to Jesus, "You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, 'Who touched me?'" And he looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction."

While he was still speaking,
people from the synagogue official's house arrived and said,
"Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?"
Disregarding the message that was reported,
Jesus said to the synagogue official,
"Do not be afraid; just have faith."
He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside
except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.
When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official,
he caught sight of a commotion,
people weeping and wailing loudly.
So he went in and said to them,
"Why this commotion and weeping?
The child is not dead but asleep."
And they ridiculed him.
Then he put them all out.
He took along the child's father and mother
and those who were with him
and entered the room where the child was.
He took the child by the hand and said to her, "
Talitha koum,"
which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise!"
The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around.
At that they were utterly astounded.
He gave strict orders that no one should know this
and said that she should be given something to eat.