Restaurante Los Ticos: A Friday in the Life

6:30 am
“You have five minutes to get out the door, Keely!” I’m still in bed, struggling to lift my limbs, exhausted from a marathon week:

Wednesday, we went to Memphis and picked up food from the restaurant supply store for the fundraiser dinner we’d planned for Friday. The restaurant supply store was awesome: it had a room the size of a normal grocery store, but refrigerated! They provided jackets by the door and kept 40 lb boxes of chicken on the shelves. By the time we’d unloaded everything into the refrigerators at school, it was 10:30 and we still had a long drive home.

On Thursday we prepared Mexican food in the home ec room. Two of my awesome juniors came to help. That part was a lot of fun, but kids have curfews and sometimes pork cooks slower than you want it to and you leave the school at 11:30 and still have a long drive home. When you get there, you have two messages from unhappy parents who’ve just gotten report cards.

Then suddenly, it’s Friday morning and I’m pretty sure I can’t make my body move, but I do it anyway and throw on a dress and brush my teeth and make it out the door just in time.

7:00 am
“Crap” I say aloud in the car: I’ve forgotten to put on a bra, and that ship has long-since sailed.

7:35 am
“You guys know you have a mariachi band in my room, right?” Vanessa says to Paige and me. We stare at her blankly (see aforementioned exhaustion). “Yeah, W has been coming in and working on it during his free time since Wednesday. It has a cutout to stick your face through.” We look at each other in wonderment. He’d suggested it at the Spanish Club meeting, but we hadn’t thought much of it. I guess I said “Make it happen, W” and he did. Some kids are too cool for school.


DSC00898 8:45 am
I am suddenly so glad that I got the better of the sandman and made it to school today: a group of my students has completed a rigorous linear functions project entirely in Spanish. They’re all over smiles.

9:30 am
I spend my prep period talking to the woman who runs the cafeteria about how not to burn down the school during the Spanish club dinner.

All morning long
teachteachteachteach. My 12th graders complete their video projects, and they’re awesome. We had a heck of a time figuring out how to send video from cellphones to the computer, but the results are pretty good. Some are outstanding. My 9th and 11th graders suddenly seem to be understanding linear functions, and they’re having fun doing creative math while I monitor and facilitate: a good formative assessment day, and not too demanding for an exhausted Ms. O.

1:19 pm
I receive the following communication from my superintendent:

High School Teachers:
I am sorry that I have to send this email; but it seems that many of you are taking a very laid back approach to the job description of teacher. I am seeing way too many kids not engaged in the learning process. I am seeing way too many kids on cell phones, way too many TVs on in classrooms,  way too many kids in the hallways and way too many kids sitting in groups talking while the teacher is sitting at his/her desk looking at the computer.
I expect you to teach bell to bell from 8:00 a.m. to 2:58 p.m. for 178 days beginning in August and ending in May. If you can not do this or choose not to do this, please come see me.
I told you at the beginning of school, we do not have “free days” or “just find you something to work on” days. We have student engaged learning days-178 of them.
We only have one chance to teach our students-please make sure that they are receiving the education that they deserve…..the quality of education you want for your own kids.
Please ignore this email if it does not apply to you.
Thank you for your time.
Keep in mind that this man pulled teachers out of the classroom to work a baseball tournament last spring. If that isn’t the definition of hypocrisy, I haven’t ever seen it in action.
All afternoon long
teachteachteachteachteach. More awesome work from 9th graders and more fabulous videos from 12th graders. I’m proud and impressed, even if I am steamed over the email from he who must not be named. I eat a lot of chocolate during classes.
2:30 pm
Band and Cheerleaders are dismissed from my 7th period. That’s about half the class, so we have fifteen minutes of chaos while the remaining students struggle to understand that they’re still expected to work on their projects.
2:50 pm
Pep rally! The cheerleaders look grumpy: nobody’s getting excited for these things anymore. Frankly, everyone knows we’ve had a terrible season and there’s just not much school spirit left in these parts.
3:00 – 7:30 pm
Kitchen time with high schoolers: We used every dish in the cafeteria, I think, and made a tremendous mess, but the food was, by all accounts, muy delicioso. J made a delightful and energetic host, and all of the servers had a blast. W was a committed kitchen helper, always there when needed and unafraid to take on a challenge. A and C were devoted sous chefs, hollering over the fans and the hustle and bustle to Sean “Chef! what can we do now?” Morgan and Mallory turned up and joined the enchilada express line, and I finally took off my jacket when someone gave me an apron to wear.


Chef Chef!

pork tostadas

pork tostadas

chicken enchiladas

chicken enchiladas

7:31 pm
We officially closed for the night. A had to go to be the drum major for the marching band, so we sent him with a message for the halftime announcements: $5 takeout trays available in the cafeteria! Somehow, by this point, all of the kids had vanished. They are involved kids, so they aren’t just in Spanish club, they’re in band or in cheer or color guard. Only W stuck it out with us. My love for this kid is totally boundless. He packed up all of the food in takeout trays and loaded them onto a cart, then got down to the business of dishes with me.
9:30 pm
W left and Paige rolled the cart out to pick up some business from the fans leaving the game. I joined her after a while, and we did a steady trade in chicken enchiladas, even after the lights on the field flicked out with a quiet hum and we suddenly felt shady, hawking unmarked boxes of Mexican food just outside the gate of a sporting event.
10:00 pm
He who must not be named is one of the last to leave the game. He stops by our cart.
“You girls still trying to sell this stuff?” He didn’t come to our dinner.
“Yes sir,” Paige says, ever cool in the face of naked evil. I force a smile.
“well how much are they now?”
“Five dollars”
“Still?!” He chuckles and walks off.
10:30 pm to 12:30 am

Dishes. Mopping. Putting stuff away. It’s not fun. By 11:30 I have salsa all over my face.

We are about to become a pumpkin patch and this kitchen still ain't clean, y'all.

We are about to become a pumpkin patch and this kitchen still ain’t clean, y’all.

Somewhere in there, we count the money and discover that we have made five hundred dollars, which is pretty crap if you think about the time and effort that we put into it, but pretty good if you think about the kids having a blast and the fact that we really needed the money to make our next payment on the Costa Rica trip.

12:31 am
We still have a long drive home.
When we left the school at 12:30 am, we found this dirt-graffiti on our ride.

When we left the school after midnight, we found this dirt-graffiti on our ride. Makes everything a little better.

A Day in the Life (Summer School Edition)

5:50 a.m.  I try to wake up and start my run before I realize what I’m doing. Sean stays in bed, letting the sun pink the walls slowly as he eases into the day. Usually by the time I wake up fully, the sun is just breaking over the trees and I’m smiling, halfway down the road. I try to push my distance a little every day, to run the length of that sorghum field, to circle that pole barn, to turn around at that road cut. This morning, I startled a young possum in the ditch and was myself startled by a rattlesnake, as big around as my bicep, curled dead in the road.
I come home, shower, and get dressed in my teacher uniform: usually a skirt, a t-shirt, flats, and earrings. Sean packs my laptop, a waterbottle and a banana in my bag and pops in a bagel for me. At 7:00, we’re out the door.

7:45 a.m.  Papers laid out, pencils sharpened, we’re in the cafeteria, watching the kids eat breakfast, breathless from the whirlwind of copying and tidying before class. At 8:00 we walk our groups to our respective classrooms, and teach for two 90 minute blocks with a thirty minute recess in the middle where we supervise the kids on the patio. The first few minutes of class is always a push to get kids settled and working on their do now/bellwork/entry task. The bells don’t ring during summer school, so there’s no distinct start to class, and kids take advantage of that blurred line. Someone is usually singing or building a paper airplane or pretending they can’t find a pencil or paper (I provide them: they’re right in front of you, dingbat), or squabbling about a seat. After bellwork, we get rolling with a discussion or experiment and I get them going on a problem or a problem set within ten minutes. At Lee, I’ve found I can count on about a three-minute class-wide attention span. I’ve got ten at Palestine, but I have more relationships, authority, and reputation up there. I break up the work-time accordingly, so we review problems frequently and I give plenty of opportunities for kids to talk math. It looks like mayhem, but it works pretty well. I did a bangup job of captaining my team to victory over function notation today. The most fabulous disruption of the day was this:

I’m assisting a student on one side of the classroom.
A student asks permission and then gets up to sharpen his pencil.
There’s a commotion on the other side of the classroom from me, near the pencil sharpener.
K: Whoah! he’s getting sexual over here!
R: did you see – he – he – he tried to kiss me!
J: (from across the room) BWAKAHAHAHAHA  — HE’S GETTING SEXUAL!
I glare at J and she turns down the volume
M: I didn’t try to kiss him! I was just making kissy noises! (Makes kissy noises)
J: (from across the room) OMG (Makes unreasonably loud kissy noises)
R: He tried to kiss my EAR!

12:00  It’s hot at noon in Marianna. It’s really, really hot. I get headaches and I sweat like pigs would sweat if they could (they can’t). We wait outside on a covered walkway for the buses to come after lunch, and keep kids from hurting each other or sneaking away to do who-knows-what behind the building. It’s a steam-mirage of sneakers smacking the concrete, yellow buses, sticky blacktop, yelling voices, sweat. At 12:30 we get to leave, and it’s a horrible relief to sink into the soft passenger’s seat of the Nissan: a relief because I’ve been on my feet for six hours already, horrible because our car is black and the inside at noon is hot enough to explode cans of soda (true) and melt rubber bands (true). Sean starts the car and we crank the A/C. It roars and sputters and blows hot air like a salon for the first few minutes, then blessed cold. By the time we’re halfway home, we can turn it down to half-power.

1:00 p.m.  It’s too hot to work outside. Sean fixes us lunch and I spend a few hours in the afternoon each day working on indoor projects: canning, tanning, lesson planning. I do some dishes, dick around on the internet, read a little, tidy something somewhere, check on the chickens, and suddenly it’s sunset, and well past time to think about dinner. Sometimes, we manage to work in the garden for a while, but lately it has not cooled off until just before dawn, and gardening in the afternoon in these conditions is out of the question.

8:30 p.m. Dinner is usually something wonderful: we rarely visit the store these days, so our meals are almost all Arkansas-grown. Tonight, it’s braised cabbage with green apples and caramelized onions, our cherry and tarragon turkey sausage, and cucumber, basil and mint salad with slivers of red onion. Not from here: red onion, green apple. We eat on the futon under the clicking ceiling fan and watch a movie or an episode of something (Freaks and Geeks, tonight) with the volume up to drown out the window unit that growls in the background.

900 p.m. It’s storming and, inevitably, there’s a crisis. Sean goes down to check on the pigs and I hear him hollering over the thunder. I rush to the porch door and peer out through the curtain of rain, looking for the flashlight.
“are you there, Sean?”
a flicker of light through the six-foot tall jungle of wet grass
“yes but the pigs aren’t. I can’t find them anywhere.”
Sean slumps up to the steps, exhausted at the prospect of the wet, muddy search ahead, and I’m ready to head in and grab my coat when there’s an unmistakable grunt from under the porch, then a chorus of snurfles. The pigs are under the porch, sheltering from the storm.

10:00 p.m. late, cold dinner. Turns out, there’s not a damn thing you can do to move a 150 lb pig that doesn’t want to go out in the rain. Damn. They’ll be there in the morning, the impudent swine.