My Journey of Life and Learning (with occasional digressions)

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Open Letter to High School Class 2020

By way of set up, allow me to explain that I substituted today in my absolutely most favorite 8th grade History class. Great day! They were studying the Civil War…most comprehended the role that the Missouri Compromise (It had something to do with Missouri, right?) played in the tensions prefacing the conflict. The understood the argument about Federal and State powers. No problem, they grasped the basics and I filled them in a bit more regarding Andersonville POW Camp, how the non-discovery of antibiotics contributed to the mortality rate and emphasized that even though some women fought along side me during the war, that the normal soldier was they same age as my students, roughly 14 years old.

This fact struck me for a moment. In the next election, in 2020, these darling little creatures will have a voice over the management of the United States of America! I managed to remain upright at the thought and asked them what the point of studying History was. Of course, the silly answers flew, “So we can learn about old dead guys,” etc. I explained that there’s an old saying, “Those who don’t learn from history are bound to repeat it.” I pointed out that State rights versus the federal government has always led to debate. They actually grew quiet and seemed to be trying to digest what I was telling them. “You people witnessed one of the weirdest elections in our nation’s history. Next time it happens, what will you see? What will help you determine your vote? Is it going to be the next mega-superstar? Will news organizations become even more propagandizing loudspeakers for various parties? Will other parties be able to get their food in the door and free us from this two party debacle we subject ourselves to?” A few blank stares, a few looks of concern…I left them hanging, “Hey, this is your world. What’s it going to become and, more importantly, why?”

NOW — on a totally different sail tack — I pray to the Lord that I can get my resume picked up and can get a teaching job. I KNOW it’s a good resume and I’m confident that if I can ever meet with a hiring authority that I can land my teaching job. It’s just such a pain )-;! Oh well, I’m doing this because I WANT to teach, I feel passionate about my subject and enjoy all the time I get in the classroom – and it’s mostly productive. Students in the district now kind of have me figured out.  I make them work, but will give them lots of freedom, until they violate it, then it all goes away.

Alright, submitted four updated resumes this evening. Let’s see what happens! woo hoo!

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Update from Planet Academia

emcee So, it’s been about a month since I posted anything, maybe longer. Things have been happening. Strange things. Like tonight – a bout with gastro-reflux that will have me up for a couple of hours, so lucky people like you will have something to read!

Found out last week that a good Army buddy passed away. I left an entry on the website announcing his obituary and such. What puzzles me is that they didn’t give the reason of death. He was a damn good soldier and when he retired I’m sure he was excellent at whatever field he pursued. He was only 47 with four boys. I guess when you enter your 50s, I’m 52 now, you start seeing people you know die. I want to use a euphemism there, but “passed” or “passed away” are SO much like what my parents, both 87 now, used. When I croak off, please use terms like “his boat slipped its mooring,” or “he sped off into the stars.” Something poetic. Heck, I’d even be happy with my dad’s old saying, “He croaked!” May not be respectful, but it’s kind of cute. I think I may actually write down some things for people to say about my death, so they don’t have to split their brains thinking of something nice to say and so I can die knowing nothing too ridiculous will be said. So with all that in mind, and I don’t plan on dying anytime soon, I’ll try to share some classroom stories. As always, and if you haven’t guessed yet, I’m trying to maintain privacy concerning the schools, districts and students. I think that’s ethical. I know I’d have raised hell if I found that one of my kids’ teachers was blogging about them.

Macbeth, the Scottish Play…what a joy it was over the last couple of weeks to entice students into a dark, dreary and damp castle to witness the downfall of a mighty Lord. On this reading, I noticed so much about how Shakespeare addressed the damnation of not following along with the “natural order” of things. Macbeth and Banquo are buddies who have been fighting in a war. This naturally makes them friends. Then they meet the witches who are performing unnatural rites and make an unnatural prophecy. When Macbeth balks before murdering Duncan, a natural reaction, his wife, dear Lady Macbeth, goads him on, unnaturally demeaning her husband. Murder is always the unnatural ending of a natural life. I wonder how many times literature or Shakespeare teachers/professors read papers along those lines? Oh, and don’t forget the old man’s scene in which an owl attacks a hawk!

The second literary work, Antigone, dealt with the after effects of Oedipus’ actions. The difference in the two works lies that in Antigone the question of human and divine law become at odds. This question is much more prominent than in Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy in which most stage members have to die.

Can all literature be reduced to an argument of what is natural versus unnatural or what is lawful versus unlawful? It almost seems so, since any plot, by our current model (thank you, Greeks) requires a protagonist, antagonist, conflict and resolution. Now, I’m NOT a stage or theatrical major, so anyone reading this, fill me in as to whether or not all mankind’s infinite mental faculties can be reduced to such a simple formula. I’m also asking this here because when I tried to point out those schema to the students in the class I was substituting, about all I received were blank stares.

As for the students I’ve met and continue to work with, what a great group of young people. I can’t say that the future generations are safe and that there isn’t an issue with general mass complacency, but there are leaders among them! And they do learn when we give them reading and writing assignments, but it seems they don’t dare show that in front of peers. I can’t wait to see what my next lessons bring!

Life in the Jungle – Among the Sixth Graders

(…I want to write this post in the manner a military student of mine used in a short piece he wrote concerning his military training…it was long ago and far away…)

With the chiming of the bell, the smallish tribal members entered the clearing. Oddly, the females of this group were generally much larger than the males. After briefly pronouncing my customary introduction, communication was tentatively established. I began the ancient ritual of deciphering names from a list which elicited some degree of tittering among the more ebullient of the group. I made the unfortunate mistake of demonstrating my German skill when I commented about one member’s name being of Nordic origin. I used the correct pronunciation but this diminutive person was quick to laughingly “correct” me with the ill sounding English version. I offered a German verbal response which silenced the throng as they attempted to discern the intent of my words. I quickly regained control and continued the ritual to its conclusion.

The goal of this meeting was to introduce, discuss and clarify matters concerning number usage. Some quickly demonstrated a sound understanding of the concept. Others were tentative in their attempts, but repeated clarifications, varied according to how much comprehension they had shown to that point, enabled the small band to practice several pre-designed exercises. By the end of the hour, I felt comfortably assured that they could demonstrate ample mastery of the subject. A sounding chime prompted each of the group to put away what items they had removed from their respective kit bags and depart, leaving me alone in the clearing.

During the short time of isolation, I could hear the sounds – sometimes softly, sometimes roaring – amidst the mystery of this other world in which I found myself. My self indulgent congratulatory interlude was all too short.

After approximately five minutes, another small group of about the same number entered the clearing and after a few brief attempts to test the bounds set for these encounters, the bedlam subsided. The proper introductions and rituals were then observed. This process repeated a total of six times, each iteration proving successful. At the end of the day, I found my way through the labyrinth of hallways to the office, surrendered my pass and found my way to my conveyance home.

So, in short…Sixth Grade math…some apprehension but another great day! I’ve thought for some time that I had a calling to teach. So far, my experiences are only confirming my suspicions. I accepted a call to substitute tomorrow, but there was no subject or teacher mentioned in the posting. I guess maybe I get to venture deeper into the jungle…hopefully, nothing becomes anything like Conrad’s tale!

 

 

Celeste

I would like to make a special “shout out” to Celeste who should be checking out my website any day now.

In the crazy days we find ourselves, in the maelstrom of a bitterly contested political three ring circus, it’s vital to stop and reflect. Family and friends have diminished in importance to the degree that a simple card has become a gift. The family has become so decentralized that mountain ranges, deserts and oceans have replaced the small picket fences. Siblings who were once inseperable are now lucky if they have contact a few times a year.

Time moves ever onward. It carries us along. Our truest treasures are those rare people we meet who knew us for a span years, part ways and yet reenter our lives much later. Long after the skinned knees have healed, after the babies are born, after mutual friends have died. With bodies ravaged by time, these people come to us and we talk. We lose our current troubles, aches and pains. In our mind, we become young. Our laughter is child’s laughter. Our thoughts are young and mischievous again…

Then we part again… smiling…knowing…reassured that time’s fingers have touched us…the path has become shorter…the end is there…somewhere…our hearts are the steam engines chugging along…taking us to the inevitable last stop…

But oh so wonderful sights along the way! What splendid landscapes, raging seas, booming thunder! Carressing breezes, gentle rain, feathery snow. A new child’s laugh, a widow’s cry, a new baby’s coo. Pure, true love. Scheming, black betrayal.

But who among us does not fantasize, with closed eyes and a calm grin, of returning to the very beginning and doing it all again?