Week 4, Day 5

A moment of ignorance cleared cleared for me today. I was sitting on the edge of a raised garden just behind the bus there [if you click on the link, you’ll see a nice picture of the place]) at the Halsted-Orange Line station after alighting from the Orange line waiting to board the Number 8 bus on my way home. I look up at a sign I’ve seen a lot, but hadn’t really read. It said “Paratransit boarding/alighting”. My first thought was, “What’s the difference between boarding and alighting?” You see, in my head, they were synonyms. Of course, in your head, you are thinking, “Don’t be ridiculous, Joe, they are antonyms.” That is because either you are a genius (most likely, given the material you read, exempli gratia, this post) or because I clued you into the correct usage in the second sentence.

You see, my association with the word alight is in reference to birds landing (or alighting) on a branch or twig, from which I got the meaning to be “get on something” rather than the proper “come down from (or off) something”, like a horse or train, and thus make it lighter – I’m serious, that’s the etymology. A logical mistake, I’m just shocked that it’s lasted in my head so long sans correction.

I must give a shout out to Christina Marshall, our speaker on our field trip to 1871 a startup incubator. They do all kinds of things for startups: provide office space (which may be a shared table when you are just starting out), mentoring, legal advice, cash, idea focussing, peers, collaboration and a whole host of other services a start-up might need (confidence boosting).

Christina, like so many of our speakers, was simply outstanding. She told the story of the vicissitudes on her journey to entrepreneurship, and how she kept being called back to what she is doing now, namely, building a business (Elu, which is a native American word meaning beauty) which creates made-to-measure apparel for GWC (not Girls Who Code, but Girls With Curves).  It is nearly impossible not to get swept up in the whirlwind of her passion (I’m not kidding, ask any of her investors). She was MADE to do this.

She got the idea when she (who is plus-sized, herself) was invited on a business yacht cruise and didn’t have a dress. She found one that she didn’t particularly like, but it was the ONLY one there was, so she bought it and wore it on the cruise, only to discover that the four other plus-sized women on the cruise had the exact same dress (she showed us a picture), and they all hated it for different reasons: plunging neckline, color (white), no sleeves, low quality (sequins were popping off), etc.

She resolved that night to fix the problem. You can see her solution on her site (yourelu.com). You can also see her, too – she is her own model, because she’s all she can afford right now. The girls (of all sizes and shapes) loved her and related to her.

Her main points:

  • Defend your idea
  • It doesn’t happen the way you plan it
  • Anchor to the vision
  • When you finally align with something, you’ll feel this zen/calm/peace around it.

It was a great trip.

Lest you think everything is all peaches and cream in the old GWC classroom, I did have to admonish the girls yesterday. One student had mentioned during our one-on-one meeting this week something I verified for myself yesterday. It seems that some girls were leaving a mess behind them after lunch (think high school cafeteria, only this is a business). I had noticed for a while that when I went to get lunch (I always go up last, after performing a security check: laptops secured, no purses or valuables left in the classroom), there was a mess on the floor and some of the counters around the salad bars: squished beans, dropped lettuce, dressing on the counter/floor. I generally clean it up, and have suspected that it might be our girls who are doing it. When I checked the table where many of the girls were sitting, there was spilled food on the table and seats. We (the TAs and I) formed a plan, took a picture, made it into a slide, and I talked to the girls after lunch. I essentially reminded them that I respected them and that respect for all people was a hallmark of a GWC classroom (I didn’t use those words, but you are more sophisticated, so I feel free to), and that it was immensely disrespectful to the Accenture employees, especially the custodians, who had to clean up after them. I went on a bit about that. The result? No smashed food on the floor at the salad bar today, and I saw one girl wipe up her spilled dressing from the salad bar. We ate outside at Daley Plaza today, so there were no tables to check.

But then… while we were outside, some of the girls didn’t finish all the (good) food that had brought out, and rather than throwing it away, wanted to give it to a homeless man who was asking for food. I was really torn about this. On one hand, kindness and compassion, on the other, security. I let them go with a TA, and watched from near by. This man was older and moving very slowly, so I don’t think the girls were at any real risk. Still, the decision was tough. I’m not sure why.

So there you are. Incredible compassion and interest in doing what’s right mixed with casual disregard. This is the life of working with teens. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.



3 thoughts on “Week 4, Day 5

  1. Alight is often used in British historical romances. One reason for reading trashy novels? Improve your vocabulary.

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