Before I forget

Hosea showed up to class this morning in a new mask, if in fact I’m actually allowed to use the word “mask” to describe a cut-up sock. Because he had a cut-up sock on his face. When I gave him a new mask from my stash and told him to put it on, he asked me why he needed it.

“Because you have a sock on your face, Hosea,” I said.

“No I don’t,” he said. (Remember, reflexively denying anything is a big part of whatever is wrong with this kid.)

“Yes, you do,” I said. “You are not wearing a sock on your face at school. Put the mask on.”

There then followed a ten-second stare down while I stood there holding the mask, at which point he said “Fine,” took it, and put it on. I don’t know what happened to the sock.

I was going to tell a whole story here about a bit of delivery nonsense involving UPS delivery of my son’s new phone– yeah, that’s a thing that’s happened now– but I no longer have the energy for the entire story so I’ll just tell the important parts: I had to redirect the phone to a UPS location because Verizon insisted on a signature and they weren’t going to be delivering while anyone was home. They did not give me a choice of locations, and directed me to their main distribution center, which is out past the airport, which you should understand to mean far away from everything. I got an email that said it was there and waiting for me.

When I got there yesterday, this sign was on the door:

You may note several possibly relevant pieces of information missing from the sign.

Despite that, the door opened as I was standing there trying to decide what to do and someone let me in, telling me she hoped she didn’t get in trouble for letting me in. She then told me that my package was still on a truck, despite the email that I’d gotten, and that it would be ready today. Okay, fine. Are you sure it’s not going to get redirected? No, it won’t be, but if it is, you’ll get an email.


I did not get an email. When I got there today, this had happened:

The story ends with me getting the phone, which was indeed at that location, behind the caution tape and the locked door, but … well, imagine trying to explain this to customer service robots over the phone. I was moments away from my nuclear method of reaching a human when stuck in customer service robot hell (start swearing and yelling racial epithets into the phone; believe me, these systems recognize profanity) when the door opened and half a dozen UPS employees poured out, all carrying various broken pieces of wood, and threw everything into a nearby dumpster, an act that provoked a surprising amount of rejoicing on their parts. Then the lady I’d spoken with yesterday recognized me, ushered me past the caution tape and past the locked door with the “don’t come in here” sign, gave me my package, and sent me on my way.

I swear everything in this post is true, and I dare you to make any of it make any fucking sense.

And now we’re getting somewhere

I am tired and annoyed for reasons that are not especially interesting, but today was a much better day at work than yesterday was, pretty much across the board. Fatima and I worked on numbers; she was already able to tell me one through about four or five, and so we worked on writing and identifying zero through nine, both as number symbols and the individual words. I have a similar process in mind tomorrow for letters, and I’ve bullied administration into letting a bunch of us out of a pre-scheduled meeting tomorrow morning so that we can all sit in my room and put our heads together to see what we can do. Apparently there are some funds available both through the program that brought her family into the country and through our own bilingual department, so we will see what we are able to get ahold of.

What we really need is to be able to secure the assistance of an interpreter. Even if it was only for an hour a day or something, some way these kids can actually talk to us would be tremendously helpful, and I’ve still had no luck in finding anything digital that can speak Pashto. We need a live person. I just don’t know yet how to find one. That’s the next big mission.

Oh, and I found something else out today that is gonna be super fun: I don’t know if this is official or not, but the word is there may be thirty more families landing in the district soon. Fatima has seven brothers and sisters, so if these thirty families are similar in size that’s quite a lot of new students to figure out. Speaking as an American, this is wonderful; speaking as someone who needs to teach these kids math, I’m shitting myself in terror.

(Mental note: try to figure out a way to ask her about her family. Brothers, sisters, that sort of thing. Second mental note: I know Islam really doesn’t like representational art; make sure asking her to draw her family or something doesn’t violate a cultural taboo. Third mental note: learn everything about everything.)

On worst-case scenarios

I met my Afghan student today. For the purpose of posting about her I’m going to call her Fatima, which is the second-most-common Afghan girls’ name, but isn’t hers.

I suspect I’m going to be talking about her quite a lot for the next little while.

Unfortunately, pretty much everything I was worried about with Fatima appears to have come to pass. She speaks virtually no English at all; she knew “hello” but I don’t think I heard her say even one other word of English while she was in class. She can read in neither English nor Pashto, although I was able to confirm after struggling with it for a few minutes that she does speak Pashto specifically basically by trying different names for languages until she lit up. As it happens, I have students in that classroom who can speak Urdu and Arabic; she understood neither language.

I gave her this when she came into the room:

The top language is Pashto; underneath that is Urdu, as Google Translate doesn’t have Dari available. I thought about adding Arabic but ran out of room, and it looks like Urdu is more common in Afghanistan anyway. It was immediately clear that she couldn’t read either. Later in class, I had her write her name (I wrote mine, then an arrow pointing to me, and handed her the pencil) and she was able to mostly write her first name, in shaky, second-grader’s handwriting, but it wasn’t quite spelled like it is in the computer and didn’t quite line up with how she pronounced it, so … yeah. Later I wrote 3+4 on the page; she did not recognize them as numbers, as far as I could tell.

Effectively, I am unable to communicate with this kid via anything other than gestures until I discover some sort of resource– an app, a website, something— that is able to speak Pashto. I’ve found several that can translate it (with who knows what level of quality, since I’m not able to evaluate it) but she’s effectively illiterate as far as being able to communicate grade-level content or anything close to it. So we need to work on nothing but getting her up to speed in English and basic literacy. I literally can’t teach her any math right now.

You can imagine how easy it is to find something that translates written English text into the spoken version of a language that is only spoken by maybe fifty million people worldwide and only about sixteen thousand (as of 2010; the number has certainly jumped recently) in America. I can find dictionaries and auto translators; they’re useless to me if they don’t speak, unless I learn to read Pashto.

On top of that, I had to bite some heads off in the morning, from kids who should have fucking well known better, for enthusiastic and obnoxious use of the word “Ay-rab” and jokes about the kids blowing up the building. I made it clear in all of my classes today that I’m landing on anyone bullying these kids like the wrath of God. We’re putting a stop to that shit with a quickness.

So, if anyone can make some suggestions for some “learn the alphabet” types of activities that work well for ESL kids, I’d love to hear it. Because our ESL teacher? Is out with Covid right now.

2022’s awesome so far.

It is White People Shut Up Day

and I am following instructions. See you tomorrow.

Looking for a fandom that doesn’t suck

I think if I encounter one more video or Tweet of someone explaining a complicated “theory” involving either the Marvel Cinematic Universe or Star Wars, I’m going to curb-stomp my phone. Visual media in general is dead to me outside of video games; if it’s not a cooking show I can’t motivate myself to watch it any longer, and The Book of Boba Fett is terrible. I thought for an hour or so that we might be watching Eternals tonight now that it’s streaming and I can watch it without paying extra for it, but my wife has decided she’s healthy enough to make an appearance at work tomorrow (I have the day off, of course) so she doesn’t want to stay up for it.

I need a new fandom I can dig my teeth into, something that isn’t personally exhausting and whose fans aren’t spectacularly toxic.

What’s good out there? What should I be paying attention to?