An Educational Cocktail

You can enter any cafe in Spain and you will probably find the same two drinks: cheap Pilsner beer and local wine (OK, you can at least choose between red and white!). The Spanish palette for mixed drinks is limited to adding liqueur to coffee, it seems, and their availability of decent beer choices is abominable. But when it comes to education, Spaniards love a good cocktail.

Here are some instructions for making an educational cocktail, shaken, not stirred.

Ingredients:

1. Homogeneous groups of students segregated by ability who remain together all day long for years at a time, and are allowed to choose their own seats.
2. Heterogeneous teachers who range in age, management, and educational methodology.
3. A school building that does not provide resources such as technology, textbooks, government-funded lunch, or air conditioning.

Instructions:

1. Place all students in one classroom. Wait for intermittently ringing bells that will shake them up out of their seats while teachers dance through hallways crowded with other teachers and random students who have PE that period, to arrive and wrap the students up in a somewhat-chilled glass with a pinch of salt along the rim.
2. Spend three hours each week trying to settle the above shaking, using the cold stirrer of the teacher’s little authority to embed knowledge enough of one subject area to make a decent mixed drink, full of flavor and memorable enough to spill out onto the streets with jubilation.
3. Subdue them on four occasions per trimester with exams that make up the stark majority of their grades, consisting of arduous essay questions, but only about ten per exam. Their flavors will bleed through classes so that they will begin to taste more like eraser remnants than a decently mixed drink.
4. Shake up the cocktail a little just when the school year is getting cold by surprising only select groups of students in one grade of primary and one of secondary with the annual government test, whose topics, flavors, and question amounts you will never know or begin to be able to prepare for, similar to visiting the cafes in every city in Spain who may or may not have a menu, use local vocabulary non-translatable in any software to identify food items, and whose waiters never return after bringing you your order. (Surprise, surprise, we all like to guess what it is we’re bringing to our lips!)
5. If the cocktail spills, you may clean it up and refill it once, for free, but only once. After that, you will be run dry and stuck in the same situation as the rest of the third world: working shit jobs for little pay.

Alas, you can always look back at your educational experiences and say that you had the best mixed drink of all time: moving through the school system in Spain!

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Day Eleven, Road Trip 2016

oldest Florida site
 enthralls us like we’re in Spain
 (memories abound)
 


coquina fortress
 built on the sweat from slaves’ backs
 (engineering feat)
 
 


defense of this sight:
 gleaming harbor colony
 (worth the protection)
 


a dogged day’s drive
 at the end of this journey
 (worth the distraction)
 
 


history, not mice:
 Florida is more than Disney
 (all they need to know)
 
 

Ode to Mixer

i waited four years
 to have my Kitchenaid back
 too bad you’re broken
 
 this last, lost moment
 before i burnt the cookies
 will be remembered
 
 goodbye, my mixer,
 my flourless-chocolate King,
 my sweet-tooth master
 
 i’ve missed your batches,
 your easy whipping of eggs,
 your strength to knead bread.
 
 but i let you live
 in the cold hands of strangers
 who kneaded your death
 
 alas, we all die
 and it’s time for us to part
 forever now, love
 
 may you rest in peace
 while i strengthen my right arm
 while mixing by hand
 
 

Pity Party

Another year is over, and it ends with a tinge of the same sinking feeling that every year begins with. The constant question all teachers ask themselves as they tackle this challenging career: Is this worth it?

Sometimes it is just a small thing that can make you sad or frustrated or feeling burned out. A student who didn’t come back to make up the final he blew off. An administrator who wouldn’t renew a colleague’s contract. A message from admin that our keys, checkout form, rooms, and us, are all being carefully micro-managed. (We can be trusted to instill knowledge and take charge over 150 students in a year, but god forbid we leave without being checked to ensure we followed through and cleaned out our damn desks).

But for me this year, after three years of teaching at the same school, it is the hollow disappointment of not having any real friends where I work.

While the thought crosses my mind off and on throughout the year as colleagues gather together for happy hours that I cannot attend because of childcare needs, or weekend parties or outings where a group of all the people I work most closely with have all attended and I only see the event posted on Facebook (not invited myself), today, on the last day of the year, the smallest event brought me to tears.

I had just heated up my lunch and was sitting alone in the office. A colleague came in and asked me to watch a student who was taking a test in the next room because she was going out to lunch. And while she offered to get me something while she was out, since I’d already brought my lunch, I said I’d be fine to eat in the classroom with the student.

But when I walked into the hall, it hit me: There they all were, in their too-cool-for-high-school clique, purses in hand, chatting and giggling their way to their outing together.

They had already made plans.

I sat alone with the student and then graded her final, texting her teacher that she was done (a text–one of several in the past few months, including accolades toward him and gratitude for one thing or another–he did not respond to).

I brought the test up to the assessment coordinator and went back down to my lonely, empty classroom, and cried.

Because this job is hard enough. Because I fight every day for these kids just like they do. Because I try to reach out to them, invite them to things, and get outright blacklisted. Because I don’t know why I’ve been blacklisted–is it because I have an opinion? Because I’m a “cynic”? Because I don’t fit into their mold of single and alcoholic?

Because it would be nice to have a friend, even a singular friend, who could support me in this constant battle that is teacherhood.

Because it’s the end of the year, and I won’t see or hear from any of them all summer, and … I guess it doesn’t matter.

At my former school, I had so many great colleagues. We ate lunch together every day and laughed so hard that someone literally started choking once and another teacher had to perform the Heimlich to save him. We’d go to happy hour, occasionally, or children’s events, occasionally, or parties. A couple of them I would get together with during the summer, just for kicks, because we were FRIENDS.

And on days like this, when there were no students? There wasn’t a soul in the building who stayed inside eating lunch alone. We’d gather in groups, ride together to a local restaurant to have lunch, and see the rest of the crew there anyway, and we’d make a giant table and laugh until we cried.

And I knew that going to Spain was going to change all that and that I wouldn’t be going back there.

But, three years in, on the last day of school, it just. Fucking. Hurts.

So this is how my year ends. With a pity party.

Looking forward to a summer with my family, a real party with my actual friends this weekend, and a break from this place. God knows I need one.

Still Worth It

two days of labor
 (grunt work for those unwilling
 to use elbow grease)
 
 and yet, it’s Christmas:
 mixer, platters, and dishes
 we’ve lived years without
 
 back to our dream house
 where toil pays us back
 with soft purring fur
 
 

At the Bottom of this Pool

in mineral baths
 i mock a tropical life
 (yet i’m still so cold)
 
 the snow drives us home
 a lion-like March exit
 to freeze my failure
 
 nothing can replace
 all the hours without them
 now bathed with worse score