Friday, June 19, 2020


A few thoughts on the history of Juneteenth, what really happened after people under enslavement were freed, and the current state of policing of Black communities by white cops:

1) June 19, 1965 was TWO YEARS AFTER the Emancipation Proclamation

2) In the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln allows many states to keep their slaves as long as they pledge alliance to the North. These states were allowed to keep their slaves until the 13th Amendment was ratified.

3) The 13th amendment (which STILL allows for legal slavery of folks in prison - many of whom are POCs who've been funneled into the system at a young age for profit) wasn't ratified until December 6, 1865 (six months after the Galveston, TX announcement).

4) Even after they were freed, these free men and women were told on that day in Galveston "to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere" ("Juneteenth". Texas State Library and Archives Commission). Basically, they were freed then immediately told that if they don't continue to work for their former masters (but, for pay, so it's ok), relax anywhere (where they'd be deemed "idle"), or if they try to get anywhere near the guns (after they're brothers in the North had actually fought for the military), they'll be harassed by cops.

5) Since Lincoln was shot four months after the Proclamation, Andrew Johnson came into power and he was a big supporter of state's rights. The Civil Rights Bill (which Johnson vetoed, but was overrode) was established in 1966, and the backlash was that the southern states instituted "black codes" which are essentially the start of Jim Crow. Examples of the "black code" is that free Black people had to sign yearly labor contracts (at the low wages employers were willing to give); if they refused, they risked being arrested, fined and forced into unpaid labor, or laws prohibiting Black people from holding any occupation other than farmer or servant unless they paid an annual tax of $10 to $100. In addition, so-called “anti-enticement” measures were designed to punish anyone who offered higher wages to a black laborer already under contract. These codes were enforced by all-white police and militias made up of former Confederate veterans.

6) The North sent in troops to ensure "a period when they [Black folks, though men only] were allowed to vote, actively participate in the political process, acquire the land of former owners, seek their own employment, and use public accommodations" ("Civil War and Reconstruction." Library of Congress.) They were also supposed to provide safety to feed people from angry white mobs during this Reconstruction period. This is the period in which the KKK was formed. Despite the passage of the 14th ("equal protection" in 1867) and 15th (the right to vote in 1870) were passed, southern states didn't follow these Federal laws.

7) As soon as the troops were recalled in 1877, angry white mobs (many of which were led by the already formed KKK) immediately burned black businesses, lynched men in governing positions, and generally incited fear in free communities. This type of fear policing has not stopped since.

White policing of Black communities has been entrenched in US culture for so long, that when videos clearly show people being shot who aren't even resisting arrest (often for false reasons) the White populace sees justification.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Why Teachers Need a Summer Break

I've often heard that teachers have it easy with all their vacation time. Why do teachers need summer break?

This is what transpired in ONE class period (65 minutes) today:

I start the class with a full bladder because I had so many student questions from the exiting students of the last class and from incoming students for the next class, that I haven't had a chance to run to the toilet that's only three classes away.

I'm short two chairs because some other teacher borrowed them and didn't return them or leave a name, so I have to assign a student to go scavenge.

The students are writing their first literature analysis essay, so almost all of the 25 students need one-on-one consultations. There's no time for this, so I have to do a quick assessment of their status, then give a quick editing task that I'll check on after I consult with the next student, and continually circle back to give the next task.

I'm simultaneously grading their work as I'm doing the consultations because the school has insisted that we need a ridiculous number of grades in the system to prove to parents that we're teaching. I calculated the number of assessment grades they want times the time it takes to grade everything as Summatives (vs. Formatives, i.e. ungraded draft work) times the number of students in the class and it averaged 30 hours a week, just on grading. So I'm entering grades on their drafts as I consult with each student.

Late students arrive and there's discussion because they don't have passes.

Unmotivated or confused students will stop working and chat with their neighbors who were working, so I have to stay aware and on top of this behavior to keep kids on track.

Students need to use the restroom, so I have to keep track of who's gone and how long they've been gone to ensure they're not wandering the halls.

Remember, I’m still doing writing consults as all this extra activity is happening.

Students have an argument about a stolen pen that nearly results in a physical fight, so I need to get them calmed and back to working.

I have a brand new student show up who's missed the first 1.5 months of class, but needs to be caught up, which I cannot possible do during class, so I send him to the library to get one of the extra textbooks I returned because supposedly we had stopped registering new students. But the library has no idea where the extra books went (according to the returned student), so I'm trying to dash out an email to the librarian to track them down while the students start lining up at my desk to ask questions, instead of staying in their seats as requested, so that I can keep track of who I've worked with already and ensure all students get some attention during class, not just the eager ones.

I have a student who had behavior issues which has resulted in him missing school. This is the first time I've seen him in two weeks, so I'm catching him up on the whole essay process (one that took two weeks of assisted classwork to get this point) when the school head comes in and takes him out of class halfway through the discussion, so he'll be even further behind now.

The nurse comes in and out, taking batches of students to check their hearing, which requires getting all students attention, stopping their work, then helping the nurse get the right students... for every batch she comes to get. Remember, I’m still trying to do essay consulting with 25 students in 65 min.

Some students want to rewrite their outline worksheet, but other students have taken all my extra copies, so I'm trying to print more from my personal printer because I can't leave the students alone in class to make more.

Then the bell rings with several students who haven't had time to talk to me, so they clamor for a minute of time and I have to quickly schedule after school meetings. By the time I've finished, I'm about to run to the toilet that I had to use at the beginning of class.

Then the bell rings for the start of the next class.

That's one class - one hour of my day. Now imagine doing that for 4 periods in a row with only a 30-minute lunch break (which is actually 20 since students stay 5 min after class and come in 5-min before to ask questions, during which, I'm at my desk scrambling to check emails that have accumulated during the last 3 teaching periods while I stuff lunch down my throat. As soon as class four is over, I start doing the rest of my job: planning/running after-school clubs, working on the school's yearbook, contacting parents of failing students, arranging meetings, coordinating with fellow teachers for co-teaching shared classes, creating a homeroom curriculum, checking up on department functionality as HOD, completing field trip request forms, coordinating a peer-to-peer training program, and... you get the idea.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Racially Profiled Child Abuse

The official stats on rape are wrong. I know this because I know so many women who haven't reported their attacks. Hell, I had a roommate in college who didn't even know she was raped, i.e. she called it something else until her other roommate and I explained that it's still rape, even if he was a friend before the incident. Literally EVERY SINGLE WOMAN I know has had some degree of unwanted sexual touch in her life. #metoo was the first time this subject was publicly addressed, and it is shocking how many people (men) don't want to believe it.

This morning, I tried to find statistics on how many black boys are harassed by cops at a young age. I couldn't find any, yet every black man I know has a story about their first harassment by cops for simply existing. One friends's face was pushed onto a cop car hood under a white cop's grip for trying to buy a toothbrush. He was eight at the time. The other stories aren't much different. Sometimes physical, sometimes verbal. Pejoratives are often used. Their voices always change when telling their story... it cracks, it becomes strained, the throat tightens with anger and shame. Imagine this being your experience after school has told you that cops are the people to go to when you're in danger. Imagine the confusion and fear. I found articles about Black adult interactions with cops, but nothing about the rates of child abuse by cops. And yes, it's RACIALLY PROFILED CHILD ABUSE. I wonder if #BLM made these stories a part of their public protests, how many white people would still not believe that the Black community is under attack from the very beginning of life.

All oppressions are intersected. You cannot fight for one and not the others.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

How to Teach Abroad

I've been getting requests from friends of friends asking for info about teaching abroad, so figured I'd just post what I know so you can pass it on. (Note, if any fellow international teachers want to chime in, feel free in the comments. I can only write based on personal experience, which is obviously limited):
First thing to know is the hiring season: The best schools start searching for candidates in November and hire by February for the following school year. The second tier schools are January to April. Third tier anywhere from early spring until well after school starts next year. Notices about these openings can be found on everything from forums to recruiting agencies. The best situation one can have is to be registered with an established recruiting agency, like Search Associates, who tell you exactly which school is looking (vs. general position and country) and their pay scale. However, these agencies require an investment on your part in the form of everything from time and effort (resume posting to online referrals from specific people in your school) to annual fees, depending on where you are in the world at the time of application. TIE ( has many openings, but their background info isn't quite as comprehensive. There are a ton more online agencies, but most just list job postings vs having your information on file for potential employers.
The basic scale from lowest tier to top tier schools is South America---> Middle East ---> East Asia ---> Europe. South America pays the least, and demands the least from its teachers. Middle East and East Asia have the best ratios of pay to cost of living for savings potential. In the Middle East you'll deal with schools that often don't know what they're doing and often, rather undisciplined students. In the Far East you'll often have high functioning schools and disciplined students, but very demanding admin and parents. Europe has lovely social life and great schools, but costs are high and benefits (housing, plane tix home, etc) are low. You don't teach in Europe to make money. You don't live in the Middle East for the social life. In the Middle East, best bets for a happy social life in order of best to worst (arguable, I'm sure) are Bahrain---> Dubai ---> Abu Dhabi ---> Oman ---> Qatar ---> Kuwait ----> Saudi Arabia. Families can handle Saudi because they provide great compound living to make up for the terrible social landscape outside (no movies, music, dancing, alcohol, exposed skin), but not great for singles. Kuwait costs as much as Doha, but is much more repressive. Thus, reverse the order for best pay. The best part is there are no taxes in the Middle East. I don't have personal experience in the far east, but have been told that China is hit or miss (often miss, for treatment of teachers), Japan and South Korea have high living costs, tiger moms, and xenophobic inhabitants, but good positions can be found. I heard Taiwan is the easiest for westerners, but happiness greatly depends on the school. Personally, I wouldn't join any school abroad that didn't pay for housing, private health insurance, yearly trips home, and some form of moving allowance. 
Before launching into applications to anyone, these items need to be prepared:
-Scans of education documents (degrees, transcripts)
-Scan of teaching license
-A passport style headshot (except smiling and looking teachery)
-A criminal background check from the FBI (not needed until ready to leave the country but good to have ready)
Extras that could help you get hired:
-A video about you on YouTube
-A teaching philosophy statement (sometimes this is mandatory)
Be aware that in some countries, the red tape is ridiculous. For example, in Qatar, you need to get your original diploma scanned, certified by notary that it's real, which is then signed by a representative at your alma mater, which is then forwarded to a state agency for signature, which is then forwarded to the US agency for verification, which is then forwarded to the Qatar embassy in the US, who then forwards approval to the country of Qatar. A good school will give you lots of information and help. I ended up using an agency in Virginia and forking over the $400 to get it all done. You can get a head start and save cash by getting your diploma verified early on while still in the states.
If hired, you'll be expected to do a health check. Sometimes they demand it be done in your home country, but usually in the new country. Sometimes, they'll ask for a US check up, then ignore that one and demand a new on in the new country. Usually the school pays for this as part of your work residency process. Note: Even if they draw blood, they're generally only looking for TB and HIV, not drugs. 
My personal process is the check out the notices I get from Search Associates, check the savings potential (listed right on the notice), check reviews of the school online, check photos of the place in Google, check average temps and social life of the area, and most importantly, check the political situation in that area. For example, there are ton of good paying jobs around Nigeria and Kenya right now, but it's not exactly a great place to be an expat/Christian right now. A few years ago there were a ton of jobs in Japan, but most were near the nuclear/tsunami sites. Note: no atheists do not officially exist in the Middle East; if you are western, you are Christian. And even if you are Christian, don't talk about it (though churches are available). 
To compare schools, the small annual fee for this review site is well worth it (like worth it in gold bars):
Re: tax free living. If you're a US citizen, you can earn up to $99K abroad and not have to pay taxes. HOWEVER, you DO have to file, along with a form that states you're living abroad and not subject to taxes. The form needs be submitted by April. Note that stepping out of the tax game also means you give up Social Security benefits. However, I saved more in the first two years abroad than my total benefits for my lifetime of work at the time I chose to give them up.

Monday, November 10, 2014

We're Doing It Wrong

I've been teaching in Bahrain for a wealthy children of royals.  It ironically turns out that this level of wealth has the exact same results as being poor.  The student apathy about homework and attendance.  The same attitude towards authority. The same immaturity. So I've been working with difficult students that are just as challenging as an inner-city urban school in the U.S.  However, though one set of students is unhappy because they only get parental attention from their nannies, the other is helping feed the family while trying to study. So after working with problem students, I've decided that a good class size should be around eight students. Six, if they're difficult. 
With that small of a group, everyone is focused, but the group is big enough to feel enough intellectual diversity to allow students to find their comfort zone and to get stimulation from their peers (no pun intended - that's a whole n'other set of discussions). However, the size of the class also allows the teacher enough time with each student that they really understand how each student learns and have the space to do that. 

So, and this is the important part:

It would eliminate many of the SPED, administration, and consulting jobs in school systems, freeing up funds to hire more teachers. And the teachers would feel less stressed because not only would there be more of them, creating a stronger support network and less hours, but the paperwork loss alone would allow for more hours a week to do their jobs of planning, grading, and teaching. And teachers would be better at their jobs because they'd have more classroom and creative energy to offer their schools. Which means less accreditation stress and homework for the staff. And student's scores would improve, so the school would get more funding from the government. Allowing them to hire more teachers. 
I think we're doing it wrong.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


So tonight at dinner, a Navy guy shared a Facebook post by an 18-year-old girl who suggested that military men should "put down the guns and pick up the medical bags, heal instead of kill."  Apparently, this is part of a series of posts by this girl.  I thought she made her points well.  

He wondered what she had against military men.

It was conjectured that she'd been dumped by one, and her continual anti-military posting was payback. In coded and loaded speech, another man upped the stakes with a comment about being raped by one.  Which was topped with the absolutely hilarious suggestion that she'd been gang raped by a whole ship on leave.

And the women said nothing.

Including me.

I wondered if I was the only one who understood what had just been said, or if all the women were so used to rape "jokes" that they started to believe they actually were jokes, albeit unfunny ones... but, you know, guy's jokes.

Or maybe they were like me... intimidated by history and the repeated societal refrain that the only good women are polite women.  Women who don't say, "Hey, jokes about gang rape aren't funny," or "Making jokes about a woman getting gang raped just because she doesn't like what you do for a living seems a bit over the top," or "Wow, you must really question what you do with the military, considering that some comments from an 18-year girl wishing for peace would elicit such  animosity that'd you suggest it is the equivalent to gang rape."

I thought a lot about my lack of response on the way home.  I'm usually the first to speak up in such situations.  In fact, I'd already called one guy on making both a racist and a sexist joke in the span of five minutes by joking that he must be in the military.  He said he resented that comment.  I said he resembled it.  

I was angry.

I was angry at these guys.  I was mad at military guys, military culture, rape culture, military rape culture, men in general... and me.

I was angry that I didn't speak up. Every time I allow rape culture to happen in my presence when I have the verbal control to stop it, I am culpable.  Every woman at the table was culpable for not doing what they could to prevent even one more woman in these guys' future from getting harassed, infantilized, objectified, and used.

And the one guy who didn't laugh and just looked down, he's culpable too.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

28 Hours in Bahrain

While it may have appeared that I disappeared from the planet with my lack of postings, I actually just moved to the middle east to not make a name for myself, teaching in a place most Americans have never heard of, i.e. Bahrain.  I've decided to post some articles about this location that continually melds the West and the East.

This first entry is after having a long day/night a few weekends ago that I realized could only happen in Bahrain, so I'm sharing it with you.  Hopefully, you'll get a feel for the place...

It is 12:45 in the afternoon and about 88 degrees F on this early November day.  As I am about to get into the cool water to snorkel, a large boat filled with bikinis and vodka race a mere ten feet from shore, laughing at their wake disturbing bathers, who make rude gestures as they regain footing.  The boat's path was directly over the coral reef I was about to snorkel, which caused me to reflect on how loud boats sound underwater.   Even from across the bay, their volume makes me jerk my head above the water line to make sure I’m not about to get brained by an unobservant partier.  I can’t imagine how horrible the sound is for fish.      

It is 1:00 in the afternoon.  I am snorkeling what’s left of a small coral reef at the beach near my apartment. While there isn’t much variety of underwater life today, I love floating in the middle of the school of fish, silver circling me with one hundred shimmering bodies. On previous days, when the tide is high, I've seen blue and yellow fish darting among the oysters, small (2-ft) sand sharks, crabs with appendages long enough to wrap around me, and large, brown-striped jellyfish that lie upside down on the ocean to capture their prey. The school is on it’s own island, but they don’t have a beach so much as mushy sand pit filled with millions of snails. the product of sand reclamation.  Across the bay however, is the Miami Beach of Amwaj, complete with cigarette butts.  It is guarded by Filipinos in matching blue uniforms who question sun bathers about their residence as the beach is private for residents of Amwaj.  They do this scrupulously, but ignore the boys doing tricks on their wave runners next to signs that indicate no jet skis or boats with gas motors are to be used on the lagoon.

It's 5:30pm and the sunset is turning every wisp of cloud into a fiery glow against a purple sky. Clouds are so rare here, that even the kids in school feel the need to point them out when they've drifted across the island.  The balcony that comes with the school-provided apartment is attached to my bedroom and overlooks the bay, with the city lights of Manama just beginning to differentiate themselves in the darkening distance.

It’s 8:30 in the evening.  I’m sitting across an enameled table from a fellow teacher and friend.  We’re in an American chain restaurant, the newest addition to a collection of eateries lining the water of the man-made lagoon on this man-made island, discussing life and swapping teaching stories of the week over meat burgers with beef bacon.  Beef bacon just doesn’t taste the same, but the room filled with black, synthetic abayas and white cotton thobes directs the menu choices.  Some restaurants here specialize in the fact that they serve pork, and you’ll see Arabs there, too.  But not as many as you’ll see in Chili’s or Johnny Rockets.  We’re greeted by several students from our school and we’re glad they can’t hear our conversation.

It’s 10:30 in the evening.  Under the full moon in a hotel courtyard next to a pool, I am dancing with a girl wearing a full face mask.  It is white and has flowers outlining the eye holes.  She isn’t the only one.  Her two friends have also traded their hijabs for this eerie masquerade. She says they know people here, which is code for Saudi women who have escaped their families to drink, dance, and pick up lovers.  It took me much too long to understand that two of the girls were a couple, and the skinny one with the peach bra strap slipping down her shoulder was actually trying to seduce me.  Then a red headed Russian woman, most of whom are usually prostitutes brought in by the Bahraini government to service Saudi weekenders, began to dance in front of me, looking intently into my eyes.  Then behind her a small, muscled woman with her blonde hair tied into a ponytail – trademark elements of a navy girl from the U.S. Fifth Fleet – stared at us dancing.  I knew that hungry, silent look from the gay bar back home.  As the night progressed, and I saw men beginning to dance with other men, I realized I had accidentally found myself at the gay circuit party of Bahrain. 

It’s 1:00 in the morning.  I’ve decided to attend the after party at a new bar on the top floor of a hotel downtown.  The bar has no roof since it rains so rarely, which provides a good view from 20 stories up.  There are lounging sofas at various levels with hot tubs tucked into a few recesses.  The hot tubs can only be entered for about a quarter of my monthly salary (champagne included) and so remain empty.  Everything is white.  Grape-mint shisha smoke (the Bahraini’s favorite flavor) drifts over groups chatting about everything from work to observations about the women hanging out with the DJ who was imported from Spain for the circuit party.  No one talks about the protests happening five miles away or the faint scent of tear gas you can smell at ground level.

It’s 3:30 in the morning.  I was going to go home, but my friends, expats from Turkey and Palestine, have texted that they’re at a new after-hours club. It takes 15 minutes to get inside due to the wait for the elevators.  Typical of Bahrain, access and egress has been poorly, if at all, planned out for this public venue.  The single men have to wait the longest since the ratio of men to women in this country is 5:1; as a woman I get escorted in quickly and free of charge.  The club throbs with dancing and laughter, but it isn’t a scene to be seen, but a place for people who like good music after the clubs have closed.  There are many Bahraini, including friends that I dance salsa with occasionally.  It is the first time I’ve danced anything besides Latin around them and it is pure joy.  Despite the tall security guards attentively manning every 20 feet of club space, it almost feels like a club back home.  The relief from raging techno makes my soul sigh.  Like everywhere in Bahrain, including restaurants, the bar fills with cigarette smoke.  Between the lax health laws and the ridiculously cheap cigarette prices (Marlboros are 900 fils/$2.50 a pack), ex-smokers rarely stay that way.

It’s 4:30 in the morning.  Sports cars zoom past me in a highway drag race.  Boys on sports bikes without helmets ride on the back wheel for minutes at a time, aching for attention.  Cars running on exuberance and Arabic pop are filled with young men breaking the Muslim rules.  This is Friday night, after all, the last weekend night before Sunday morning work. And, of course, at this late hour there are no local women in a single passing car.

It is 4:40 in the morning.  You can tell a city by the cargo traveling the highways in the wee hours.  In the northeast it’s logging trucks.  In the southwest, it’s modular homes.  Here in Bahrain it’s boulders, construction materials, and workers.  The boulders are the size Scottish men would hurl and are off-white, like salt for giants.  The construction materials feed the animal of progress - a cityscape of skeletons with ants crawling over them once the sun has risen.  The workers, the ants, come from Pakistan and live in huts near the construction sites. They swaddle their extremities, leaving nothing but essential eyes to the sun, every bit of melanin taking them one step farther away from being the ideal pallor they believe should accompany their meager savings, a kingly sum in their home country.

It is 5am.  The  morning prayers are calling in their usual monotone when suddenly the voices from the two nearest mosques stop competing and come into harmony.  The voices that usually sound of nothing but lamentation become, for a moment, a harmonic praise. I take one look at the the pinking skyline from my balcony overlooking yet another man made oceanic bay and put Bahrain temporarily to rest.