The Critic is "IN"

Gilda and I saw Freedom Writers tonight. I got in free with my school district paystub. With me paying for Gilda, it was like two for half price. Anywho, I was touched by the movie but felt it ended with more story to tell. Probably what anyone who's read the book before seeing the movie would say. I knew it would be hard to put a very prose-based book (a compendium of 150 students' diary entries that chronicle their 4 years together) onto the silver screen. Yet, producers Danny DeVito and company did a good job. The movie shows a lot more of the background drama of Erin Gruwell, teacher, with her husband and father not entirely appreciating the sacrifices that she's making for her students.

I give props to the movie for filming on location in Long Beach. Wilson High School looked like Jordan HS in North Long Beach, but the credits thanked LA Unified District. Some of the class procedures seemed to casual: like Gruwell inspecting her classroom just minutes before the first day bell was to ring, a supervisor waiting in the hallway to break up fights, and the entire campus going berserk instead of into lockdown when gangsters come to rough some guy up. But aside from the Hollywood drama designed to keep viewers' attention, I thought some of the scenes were very touching. Hearing the own stories of Holocaust stories always brings a tear to my eyes. Hillary Swank did a good job of sounding and looking like a white teacher not entirely down with street culture. Instead of being a teacher-as-hero movie, I think FW balanced the voices and scenes of students with teacher.

If you're a teacher, you've got one more day to see it free. But, in the end, I would pay money to see this movie just to see the views of Long Beach, stories of students' lives, and a positive message. This critic gives it *** 1/2 stars!


Free Movie for Teachers

As I was subbing at my favorite school in Long Beach, Birney Elementary, I saw a notice from Erin Gruwell, teacher and editor of "The Freedom Writers Diaries", saying that AMC and Paramount Pictures are making the movie Freedom Writers available free to teacher for a week from Janauary 26-Feb 2. All you need is your k-12 school id or pay stub and ID. Go see the movie. I'll see it this weekend and maybe again at this rate!

Already seen it? Lemme know what you think. I have a feeling it'll be shaped by the typical Hollywood "hero teacher helps underpriviledged students" genre but I hope there's something in there that breaks the mold. The book was very honest about students' own lives in around the Long Beach of mid-90s.


Oh no! A Backhoe!

A babbling brook snapped me out of my test prep study this morning. No, I haven't retreated to the San Bernadino mountains to study for my English teacher credential test. A water pipe burst underneath the alley behind my house. Dirty water was coming up out of every crevice with a connection down under.

I could hear Mel the Manager and Rob the guitarist (my neighbors) talking about the causes and implications. I figured they were on top of things and all the DWW (Department of Water Works) would have to do is shut something off. 5 hours later, I'm heading out to scope out the test site so I don't get lost and late tomorrow. They've got a few DWW trucks and utilities workers out there assessing the damage. Mel says I'll have to park on the street for a few days. Dwight, the utilities workers, corroborates Mel's story. Oh well, at least I got my car out before it was trapped.

I came back from my reconnaissance this evening to find a "road closed to thru traffic" sign at the front of the alley. "Oh good" I thought, "for the first time a sign like that doesn't apply to me because I'm not trying to weasel through, I live here." But a backhoe, dump truck, and yellow utilities truck blocked my passage to my parking spot. I had to park two blocks away.

As I ascended to my second floor apartment, the noise grew from the backhoe. 9, 10, 11 pm. They're still digging? Don't they know that I have a huge test tomorrow? Water Works waits for no one. At least I'm getting good alliteration practice out of their excavation escapade.

I stay resilient. I'll sleep with soothing music playing in my headphones to keep the exhaust and idle of the backhoe out of my ears.


New Year, No Post

With New Year's resolutions, I've tried to be more disciplined in my time use. Unfortuantely for my dwindling blog reading audience, that means that I haven't updated my blog in almost 3 weeks.

I'm trying to simplify my life, have less distractions, and finish things that I start instead of starting too many things that I can't finish.

I continue to substitute teach in the local schools. Travelling to new sites each day gives me an inside perspective on the school system so that eventually I can get hired for a full-time position.

My neighborhood continues to be uneventful. That's a good thing compared to my first night living here. But I've noticed some nice features of culture around: the ice cream truck that plays "little drummer boy" instead of "do your ears hang low" and the produce truck that brings the grocery store to the street side instead of residents walking a few blocks to go to the bodega.

We've had quite a cold snap here in LA. "Yea, right," I'm sure you're saying. But they showed Malibu with snow today. The mornings are cold here with air worthy of a jacket, but the midday sun warms me up so that I'll just wear a long-sleeve shirt.

Saturday is my big test day. I'm taking the day off to study for the CSET English test. My expertise is in linguistics, not composition and rhetoric, so I'm a little unsure whether I'll pass the test or not. I'll do my best.

I've started to teach an ESL class to a Cambodian community group. We're learning basic handwriting and phonics. Teaching immigrant beginning-English adults requires quite an array of things to be conscious of: respect for age yet simplifying material to be understood, keeping topics interesting enough for adult tastes yet needing to learn how to write and read before any other information can be transferred.

It is quite different from where I was last year: teaching very literate Japanese middle schoolers. I guess this experiences is giving me a broader skill set in ESL.

Countries I have visited

Where I've been in the USA