Category Archives: education

Why Does Mickey Want to be a Nudist? Part 2

Although I was fond of being naked outdoors before that came to an end with the assault I endured at age ten, in my youth I had my doubts about nudists. It was not a thing that happened anywhere I was aware of in Iowa. All I knew about it was the jokes they made about it in TV comedies like the sole nudist park episode of the Brian Kieth Show. And my psyche and personal body image were extremely fragile due to the trauma. I was in no way willing to risk the kind of exposure to ridicule that association with nudism would have for me.

When the twins who claimed to be nudists teased me in my classroom with details about it, I was keenly aware that there were bright red lines involved in that issue that cannot be crossed. Especially since I was a school teacher in charge of vulnerable pubescent boys and girls who obviously had their own issues in terms of nudity, sexuality, and personal body image. There was danger involved in being connected to ideas like nudism right along with communism, liberalism, and any suggestion that a teacher might be behaving toward students in an inappropriate way. I was fully aware that merely being accused of something could destroy my career, whether there was any relationship to the truth behind the accusation or not.

Drawings like this one existed in my portfolio at home while I was teaching, but only my girlfriends, my parents, and my sisters knew they existed.

My career as a school teacher was a sacred trust as far as I was concerned. My first teaching job was in a poor, rural school district in deep South Texas. I vowed that not only would I never be a threat to molest or assault a child or a teenager, but I would also actively try to prevent every child entrusted to me from being victimized in that way. It was crucial to my own belief in myself as well as my belief in the goodness of mankind that my plan would work out for the best.

There were a number of young boys, fatherless, raised by grandparents or aunts, and exposed to abusive adults, that needed a male mentor enough to show up at my door. I never let them in without the windows open and a clear view for every passerby that nothing wrong or inappropriate was going on. They came to talk, to get help with homework, to play role-playing games, or sometimes to just hang out. The County Sheriff, the Baptist Preacher, and the head of the high school Science department were all aware of what I was doing because their sons all came to participate in role-playing games, computer games, and discussions. I underwent training to become qualified as a foster parent for anyone who needed that (though it was specified by me that I couldn’t be a foster parent for girls while still being single for obvious reasons. And the city had no social workers at all in residence, so I was never called upon for actual parenting experience.) I was supported in that effort by my principal during the third year I was teaching. He saw how effective I was teaching problem-child boys. He sent a couple of troubled kids my way for mentoring.

My girlfriend in the early 80s was a teacher’s aide who worked both in my classroom and in the classrooms of the two other English teachers on campus. Ysandra was a divorcee and a much more world-wise person than I was. She had been through some trauma too. In fact, she was the first person I was able to tell about the sexual assault I had endured because she had been abused too and also endured the kind of moment where the traumatic event comes back to haunt you, complete in every horrible detail. And she and I planned dates together in the Austin area because my parents were living in Taylor, Texas, an Austin suburb, and her sister lived with a husband and child in an apartment complex in downtown Austin. That apartment complex, however, was a clothing-optional apartment complex that was destined to push nudism right up in my face once again.

That, of course, will be the completely embarrassing topic of the third part of this essay.

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Filed under artwork, education, humor, nudes, Paffooney

I Hope You Dance…

When you walk to the front of the classroom and take up the big pencil in front of a group of young teens and twelve-year-olds, there is a strong pressure to learn how to sing and dance. That, of course, is a metaphor. I was always too arthritic and clunky in my movements to literally dance. But I looked out over a sea of bored and malevolence-filled eyes, slack and sometimes drooling mouths attached to hormone-fueled and creatively evil minds. And I was being paid to put ideas in their heads. Specifically boring and difficult ideas that none of them really wanted in their own personal heads. So I felt the need to learn to dance, to teach in ways that were engaging like good dance tunes, and entertaining in ways that made them want to take action, to metaphorically get up and dance along with me.

I wanted them to enjoy learning the way I did.

But the music of the teacher is not always compatible with the dance style of the individual learner. The secret behind that is, there is absolutely no way to prompt them to dance along with you until you learn about the music already playing in their stupid little heads. (And you can’t, of course ever use the word “stupid” out loud, no matter how funny or true the word is,) You have to get to know a kid before you can teach them anything.

The discordant melodies and bizarre tunes you encounter when you talk to them is like dancing in a minefield blindfolded. Some don’t have enough to eat at home and have to survive off of the nutrition-less food they get in the school cafeteria’s free-and-reduced lunch program. Some of them have never heard a single positive thing from the adults at home, enduring only endless criticism, insults, and sometimes fists. Some of them fall in love you. Some due to hormones. Some due to the fact that you treat them like a real human being. Some because they just stupidly assume that everyone dances to the same tunes they hear in their own personal head.

Some of them automatically hate you because they know that if you hear their own secret music in their own self-loathing heads, you will never accept it. They hate you because you are a teacher and teachers always hate them. Some of them, deep down, are as loathsome as they think they are.

But, if you find the right music, you can get any of them, even all of them, to dance. It might be hard to find. It might be a nearly impossible task to learn to play that music once you find it. But it can be done.

And if you get them to dance to your music, to dance along with you, I can’t think of anything more rewarding, anything more life-fulfilling. Have you ever tried it for yourself? If you are not a teacher, how about with your own children or the children related to you? Everybody should learn to dance this dance I am talking about in metaphors. At least once in your life. It is addictive. You will want to dance more. So the next time the music starts and you get the chance… I hope you’ll dance!

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Filed under commentary, education, kids, metaphor, Paffooney, teaching

“They” Don’t Think Like “We” Do

Dumb Luck

I was recently asked how I can live surrounded by conservatives when I am obviously liberal-minded.  I hardly have to think about it to give an answer.

You have to realize that conservatives are people too.  To begin with, I hope you didn’t look at the picture I started with and think, “He must think all conservatives are stupid and look like that.”  The picture of Doofy Fuddbugg I used here is not about them.  It is about me.  This is the comedy face I wear when I am talking politics.  You live a life filled with economic, physical, and emotional pain like I have, you have a tendency to wear a mask that makes you, at the very least, happy on the outside.  People talk to me all the time, but not because I seek them out.  In social situations, I am not a bee, I’m a flower.  And because of my sense of humor, people feel comfortable seeking me out and telling me about their pain and anger and hurt to the point that they eventually reach the totally mistaken conclusion that I have wisdom to share.

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                                                                                                                                                           I do think that corporate bank CEO’s look like this, and I am not sure they count as people.

I hear lots of detailed complaints from my conservative friends in both Iowa and Texas.  I know what they fear and what makes them angry.  Here are a few of the key things;

  1. The world is no longer very much like the world I grew up in, and the changes make me afraid.
  2. I have worked hard all my life.  I’m still working hard.  For my father and mother that led to success and fulfillment.  For me it leads to a debt burden that’s hard to manage, and I am having to work hard for the rest of my life because of it.
  3. I’m not getting what I deserve out of life, and someone is to blame for that.  But who?  Minorities and immigrants seem to be getting ahead and getting whatever they want more than they ever used to.  It must be them.
  4. Liberals are all alike.  They want to tax and spend.  They don’t care about the consequences of trying out their high-fallutin’ ideas.  And they want me to pay for it all while they laugh at me and call me stupid and call me a racist.
  5. I am angry now, as angry as I have ever been in my life.  And someone has to hear me and feel my wrath.  Who better than these danged liberals?  And I can do that by voting in Trump.  Sure, I know how miserable he is as a human being, but he will make them suffer and pay.

I have always understood these feelings because I began hearing them repeatedly since the 1980’s.  They are like a fire-cracker with a very short fuse, these ideas conservatives live with.  And certain words you say to them are like matches.  They will set off, not just one, but all of the fireworks.

So, here is how I talk to conservatives.

  1. Never treat them as stupid people.  Conservatives are sometimes just as smart as I am, if not smarter.  I complement them on what they say that I think is a really good idea.  I point out areas of agreement whenever possible, even if they are rare sometimes.
  2. I defend what I believe in, but I try to understand what they believe and why.
  3. I am open about the doubts and questioning I have about my own positions on things, encouraging them to do the same.
  4. I always try to remember that we really have more in common than we have differences.  I try to point that out frequently too.  This point in particular helps them to think of me as being smarter than I really am.
  5. And if I haven’t convinced them that I am right, which, admittedly is impossible, that doesn’t mean I have lost the argument.  In fact, if I have made them feel good about actually listening calmly to a liberal point of view and then rejecting it as total liberal claptrap, I win, because I have been listened to.

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Filed under commentary, compassion, education, empathy, goofy thoughts, humor, politics, self portrait

The First Year as a Teacher

My proudest achievement of my thirty-one year years as a public school teacher was the fact that I survived my whole first year. That doesn’t sound like much to you unless you are a teacher. But it sounds even more amazing if you knew what South Texas junior high schools were like in 1981. I mean, my school, Frank Newman Junior High had practically been destroyed the year before I started teaching there by the seventh graders I would be teaching as eighth graders.

You see some of my favorites in the painting I did during my third year as a teacher. From front to back they are Dottie, Teresa, Ruben, Fabian, and Javier. Of course, in these essays about being a teacher, I usually don’t use real names to protect the privacy of my former students, both the innocent and the guilty. So, I leave it to you to decide whether, even though I love these kids, those aren’t probably their real names. Unless… they are.

But not all Texas eighth graders are loveable people. In fact, they are hard on first-year rookie teachers. Especially the ones with a Midwestern faith that they can step in and change the world with their idealistically pure and golden teaching methods. Those teachers they will try to eat alive.

I followed the seventh grade English teacher in the same classroom with the same kids. They made her scream daily, had classroom fist fights weekly, exploded firecrackers under her chair twice during the year, and made her run away to the San Antonio airport and leave teaching behind forever. As ninth graders, they made their English I teacher leave teaching forever even though she was a three-year veteran. And believe me, they tried to do the same to me.

I foiled them constantly by being an on-your-feet-all-day teacher rather than a sit-behind-the-desk-and-yell teacher like my predecessor. After I had a chance to sit during planning period, I always had to clean thumbtacks, tape, and smeared chocolate bars off the seat of my little wooden teacher chair. Paper airplanes were the least gross things that flew through the air. Boogers, spit-wads, spit-wet pieces of chalk, and brown things you had to hope were chewed chocolate flew constantly whenever you had your back turned to them. And if there was only one kid behind you and you turned on him and asked pointedly, “Who threw that?” The kid, of course, saw nothing, has no idea, you can torture him, and he still won’t know anything because you are a lousy teacher and didn’t make him learn anything.

And lessons were mostly about talking over the malevolent tongue-wigglers. They didn’t listen. Not even to each other. One kid would be talking about monster trucks that shoot fire out of their exhaust pipes while the kid next to him was talking at the same time about whether Flipper is properly called a dolphin or a porpoise, or like his older brother says, “a giant penis-fish.” And the girls behind them are actually hearing each other, but only because they are speculating which boy in the classroom has the cutest butt.

I broke up three fights by myself that year, one of which I got slugged in the back of the head by the aggressor during, teaching me to always get between them facing the aggressor and never being wrong about who the aggressor is.

They don’t let you do much teaching at all your first year. They force you to practice discipline by keeping them all seated at the same time with their books open in front of them. “I don’t do literature,” Ernie Lozano told me. Well, to be accurate, none of them actually did literature that year. But they taught me to survive long enough to learn how to actually teach them something.

On the last day of school that year we gave them all extended time on the playground, using the outdoor basketball court to keep them occupied for long enough for a terrible school year to finally run its course. They didn’t set the school on fire that year. They didn’t break into the office that year and steal all the cash. We did well enough at keeping them under control that year that I got rehired and our principal got promoted to high school principal. I had a decision to make that year. Would I keep teaching? Or find another job? Sixty percent of all first-year teachers in Texas in 1982 quit teaching. I only earned $11,000 that year. Did I really want to continue down that dark path for another school year?

Ruben walked up to stand beside me and watch the bigger eighth graders foul each other on the basketball court. “You know, Mr. Beyer, you were my favorite teacher this year.”

“Thank you, Ruben. I needed to hear that.” I bit my lip to keep from crying.

That was when I made the decision. I stuck it out in that same school and district for the next 23 years. I became the head of the Cotulla Middle School English Department. I moved to the Dallas area for family reasons in 2004, but I would teach for eight more years in two more districts and in three more schools. But all of that is Ruben’s fault. Because that was the most important thing anyone ever said to me as a teacher. And I did hear it more than once. But he was the first.

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Filed under education, humor, kids, Paffooney, teaching

Being Excessively Creative

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It is an unusual position to be in as a kid in the school room to be the creative kid.  First and foremost because you will forever be known as the weirdo, the spaceman, the egghead.

How do I know that?  Because I was that kid.  And I grew up to teach that kid.  And now that I am retired as a teacher, I am still that kid.

If there was a problem to be solved, a picture to be drawn, a group assignment that required somebody to actually think, I was the kid that everybody wanted to be in their group or be their partner.  (That time that Reggie and I blew up the test tube of copper sulfate in Mr. Wilson’s chemistry lab doesn’t count because, although I am the one who dropped it, he’s the one who heated up my fingers with the blowtorch.  Honest, Mr. Wilson, it is true.) But if it was picking teams on the playground, I was the last loser to be called, even though I was pretty good at softball, pretty good at dodgeball, great at volleyball, and usually the leading scorer in soccer (of course we are talking an Iowa schoolyard in the 60’s where soccer was a sport from Mars.)  And as an adult, I enjoyed teaching the creative kids more than the rest because I actually understood them when they explained what they were doing and why, and I was even able to laugh at their knit-witty jokes (yes, I am including those jokes made of yarn with that pun).   Creative kids speak a language from another world.  If you are creative too, you already know that.  And if you aren’t creative… well, how foo-foo-metric for you.

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And another unfortunate side effect of the creative life is that you make stuff.  You don’t have to be seriously infected by bites from the cartoon bug or the art bug to be like that.  My daughter is making a suit of armor for herself from a flat sheet of aluminum that she is pounding out by hand, painting with spray paint and painter’s tape, and edging with felt.  After she’s done with it this Halloween, it will go on one of the piles of collections and models and dolls and stuffed toys and… Of course, sooner or later one of those piles is going to come to life and eat the house.  There is no place left to display stuff and store stuff and keep stuff that is far enough away from potential radioactive spider bites.  I have scars on my fingers from exactor knife accidents, oil paint, and acrylic paint and enamel permanently under my fingernails.  Shelves full of dolls rescued and restored from Goodwill toy bins, dolls collected from sale bins at Walmart, Toys-R-Us, and Kaybee, and action figures saved even from childhood in the 60’s are taking over the house and in an uproar, demanding to be played with rather than ignored.  (Didn’t know dolls can actually talk?  Haven’t you learned anything from John Lasseter?)

Anyway, it is tough to go through life being excessively creative.  I have art projects growing out of my ears.  And book publishers are calling me because my award-winning book is not generating sales in spite of two awards, 5-star reviews, and generally good quality, but the only solutions they have cost ME money I don’t have.  Oh, well, at least it isn’t boring to be me.

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Filed under angry rant, artwork, doll collecting, education, feeling sorry for myself, goofy thoughts, inspiration, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Good Versus Evil in Today’s World

Innocence, Purity, and Courage are Good

It is the goal of those who write humor to reveal truth and make you laugh about it. Unexpected truth is funny. It is also the main reason that far-right political kooks have no sense of humor Simply put, for the evil and stupid people who are taking over this country, truth is not funny. It is the enemy.

The fact that so many who are quick to argue cannot be quieted by a joke anymore means that the conversation can’t end until they’ve owned the libtard, or punched him in the face… or worse, shot him dead with their beloved Second-Amendment Rights.

And a source of that evil is the whole conservative-bubble propaganda wheels that never stop turning on Fox News, Breitbart, One America News, and Stormfront publications.

They take up arms against the things they fear. And they fear those people that their propaganda wheels identify for them as the “other.” That means people of color, Democrats, liberals, ANTIFA (which stands for anti-fascists, and as far as I can tell are mostly fictional… which prevents me from joining them,) and intellectuals (meaning anybody that is smarter than they are… specifically me.)

Yes, White Priviledge is real, though they will complain you’re being racist if you say it out loud.

The most frustrating thing about the armies of evil is that they are made up of good, basically God-fearing, fine-hearted people who would do anything for you if you are identified as a member of their group by the color of your skin or your support of their glorious leader Don Cheetoh Trumpaloney. Unfortunately the consumption of propaganda from their fear-centered and conspiracy-theory-prone propaganda wheels stimulates the fear centers of their amygdalas (also known as their lizard brains) and suppresses their natural empathy to the point of being able to do violence in the name of leaders who are basically robbing them, conning them, and laughing about it behind their backs.

Enthusiasm for an idea like this… good or evil?

And the leaders who are doing all of this, they are the primary beneficiaries of corporate greed and control of politics to the point that they can make more profits than ever from fossil fuels at a time when the planet is dying from green-house gasses that cause fires in the western States and the ferocity of Hurricane Ian in Florida.

So, what are people who would rather see good happen than have the world die in fire and a hail of bullets going to do about it?

We can vote. Here are the names of some people who support evil ideas and have made lots of money in their respective offices; Ron DeSantis (Mickey Mouse’s new nemesis), Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Greg Abbott (Evil Emperor of Texas,) Marco Rubio (enemy of immigrants everywhere,) and basically anyone who rules with a Maga hat on, or calls himself a Trump Republican.

We have to keep fighting for public education, fair and equal and well-funded, free of book banning in school libraries that target classic works of black authors, gay authors, truth-tellers, and authors of science books that include climate change and evolution as scientifically established, and willing to treat kids as valuable learners no matter what color, religion, ethnicity, culture, or sexual orientation they are blessed with. Kids are kids and deserve love and respect (even the naked ones, though I am not advocating for nude schools… that’s just a joke.)

We have to treat the aggrieved and fearful members of the evil armies not as evil, but as our misguided brothers and sisters, neighbors, useful members of society, and people who can be reminded that they do have good hearts, and only cold-hearted lunatics and despots are truly evil.

And I will continue trying to open eyes and hearts with humor. Hopefully the kind that brings smiles and laughter. But also the kind that brings tears and self-examination as necessary. (Of course, I can’t promise to be good at it. Funny is in the brain of the laugher after all.)

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Filed under angry rant, education, empathy, feeling sorry for myself, humor, irony, kids, politics, red States

My Favorite Cowboy

When he walked through my classroom door for the first time in August 1988, the start of his seventh grade year, Jorge Navarro was a tiny little third-grader-looking thing. But one of the first things he ever told me in English was that he was a cowboy.

He had two older brothers. Sammy was an eighth grader that year, and Jose was in tenth grade. So, I already knew his brothers. Big strapping lads. They didn’t speak English really well and couldn’t read. But they were smart in a pragmatic, workman-like way. They all three came from a ranch down in Encinal, Texas. Fifteen miles closer to the Mexican border than where I was teaching in Cotulla, Texas. But they were not Mexicans. Their grandparents and parents were born in the USA, and their great grandparents, and possibly further back than that had lived on the same ranch-land all the way back to when everything South of the Nueces River was Mexico. These were Tejanos. Proud Americans from Texas. Hard-working, dedicated to the ranch owners who paid them to do what they loved, getting the most agricultural benefits possible from the dry South-Texas brush country.

Jorge was, at the start, a little man with a big voice in a small package. He was smarter and could read better than either of his brothers. He could even read and translate Spanish, which, of course, was his native language. And he had strong opinions that you could not argue with him about. He was a cowboy. That was opinion number one. He not only rode horses, he fed them daily, curried them in the morning to loosen the dirt and stimulate the production of natural oils that kept their coats shiny, and he even told me about the times he bottle-fed newborn colts when their mothers were sick.

And he strongly believed that a boss, or a teacher in my case, should never ask someone to do something that he didn’t know how to do himself. That was opinion number two. And he held me to that standard daily.

You should never use bad language in front of a lady… or a teacher, was opinion number three. He had a temper though. So, unlike most of the other boys, on those days when he lost it, he apologized as soon as he was back in control of himself. It made the girls giggle when he apologized to them, but that was an embarrassed reaction. He impressed them. They told me so in private afterwards.

He had a cowboy hat in his locker every day. You never wore a hat inside. Strong opinion number four.

And when he was an eighth-grader, he almost doubled in height. But not in width. He was what they call in Spanish, “Flaco,” skinny as a rail. He was taller than me by the time in mid-year when he started competing like his brothers in rodeos. And he was good. Something about the way his skinny, light frame could bend and twist under stress allowed him to stay on a barebacked horse longer than his brothers, or even the older men. He was pretty good at roping steers too. But it was the bareback bronc riding that won him trophies.

This is not a story about someone overcoming hardships to succeed. It always seemed like Jorge was blessed with it from the beginning. But it was the fact that he did what was needed every single day without fail. You could depend on it. He had a code that he followed.

The drawing that started this story is one that I did for him. I gave him and every member of his class that asked for one a copy made on my little copier at home.

And he taught me far more than I could ever teach him. Jorge Navarro was a cowboy. And you couldn’t argue with him about that.

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Filed under autobiography, Cotulla, cowboys, education, heroes, Paffooney

The Wolf in My Dreams

wolfgirl

Rosemary Hood was a bright, blond seventh grader who entered my seventh-grade Gifted English class in September of 1998.  She introduced herself to me before the first bell of her first day.

“I am definitely on your class list because my Mom says I belong in gifted classes.”

“Your name is Rosemary, right?”

“Definitely.  Rosemary Bell Hood, related to the Civil War general John Bell Hood.”

“Um, I don’t see your name on my list.”

“Well, I’m supposed to be there, so check with the attendance secretary.  And I will be making A’s all year because I’m a werewolf and I could eat you during the full moon if you make me mad at you.”

I laughed, thinking that she had a bizarre sense of humor.  I let her enter my class and issued her copies of the books we were reading.  Later I called the office to ask about her enrollment.

“Well, Mr. Beyer,” said the secretary nervously, “the principal is out right now with an animal bite that got infected.  But I can assure you that we must change her schedule and put her in your gifted class.  The principal would really like you to give her A’s too.”

So, I had a good chuckle about that.  I never gave students A’s.  Grades had to be earned.  And one of the first rules of being a good teacher is, “Ignore what the principal says you should do in every situation.”

But I did give her A’s because she was a very bright and creative student (also very blond, but that has nothing to do with being a good student).  She had a good work ethic and a marvelous sense of humor.

She developed a crush on Jose Tannenbaum who sat in the seat across from her in the next row.  He was a football player, as well as an A student.  And by October she was telling him daily, “You need to take to me to the Harvest Festival Dance because I am a werewolf, and if you don’t, I will eat you at the next full moon.”

All the members of the class got a good chuckle out of it.  And it was assumed that he would. of course, take her to the dance because she was the prettiest blond girl in class and he obviously kinda liked her.  But the week of the dance we did find out, to our surprise, that he asked Natasha Garcia to the dance instead.

I didn’t think anything more about it until, the day after the next full moon, Jose didn’t show up for class.  I called the attendance secretary and asked about it.

“Jose is missing, Mr. Beyer,” the attendance secretary said.  “The Sherrif’s office has search parties out looking for him.”  That concerned me because he had a writing project due that day, and I thought he might’ve skipped school because he somehow failed to finish it.  When I saw Rosemary in class, though, I asked her if, by any chance, she knew why Jose wasn’t in class.

“Of course I do,” she said simply.  “I ate him last night.”

“Oh.  Bones and all?”

“Bone marrow is the best-tasting part.”

So, that turned out to be one rough school year.  Silver bullets are extremely expensive for a teacher’s salary.  And I did lose a part of my left ear before the year ended.  But it also taught me valuable lessons about being a teacher.  Truthfully, you can’t be a good teacher if you can’t accept and teach anyone who comes through your door, no matter what kind of unique qualities they bring with them into your classroom.

 

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Recognizing What is Good

We have to have a reason to keep going from day to day. Sometimes people you would never expect to give up, real balls of intellectual energy and cultural importance give up and end their own lives. Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, and Robin Williams come to mind with no mental effort..

There has to be an undeniable goodness hidden somewhere in reality that makes life worth living. The real question, then, is how we find it. And in order to find it, we need to be able to recognize goodness when we see it.

A problem arises, though, when we realize that even the worst villains in history see themselves as the good guys, the heroes of their own stories in the annals of history. ,

There are many things in life that are seen generally as bad or evil that can, over time and with factual input come to be seen as a general good. I was more or less taught as a boy that if you masturbate, you are doomed to go to hell when you die. I was taught this after I had already been sexually assaulted and tortured. I tried really hard to completely resist the urge, going so far as to burn myself whenever I felt a desire to do the deed. But when the Methodist minister told our confirmation group the actual facts of life, he also taught us that masturbation is a natural function for both boys and girls. And that it was necessary to learn how your body actually works. And how to approach it with maturity and the realization that in later life you will probably need that practice to maintain a healthy love life based on mutual love, respect, and desire. And as an adult, I would actually reach an understanding that that particular practice was a useful thing for maintaining prostate health, avoiding depression, and helping both your immune system and your sense of satisfaction with life. It is a good thing that is hard to recognize.

I would also learn in my role as a teacher, especially when I taught middle school kids in their “Wonder Years,” that there really are no bad kids or evil kids. When they act out in class, being defiant, disobedient, unruly, inappropriate, and every other kind of stinky behavior that kids do, you can’t just throw them on a trash pile and get rid of them. That only leads to more of the same and a trash pile of monumental size. Rather, every instance of misbehavior has a root cause. And if you take the opportunity to talk to the juvenile offender, you can get down to those root causes where you can solve problems, extinguish bad behaviors, and instill good behaviors. You get to know the kid for who they really are. And I have to admit, by the sixth grade, some kids are so damaged by life there is literally nothing within your power to heal what’s wrong. You can still work with those kids, though, and benefit them in the long run. I had some amazing accomplishments with some kids that other teachers had on their trash piles. There is startling good in some of them, if only you are willing to search for it.

So, what is my reason, as the insufferable know-it-all who is giving you this unasked-for advice about life, for getting up and going on every single day?

Well, I am a pessimist by philosophical habit, and yet, I find more really good and worthwhile things to pursue in this life than bad things to avoid or arm myself against. In fact, I can focus on the good things and ignore the bad (at least until I have a bad week like last week where multiple terrible things happen all at once and screw up everything. I fear that may have been what happened to Robin Williams.)

I can see good coming from all the things the former orange-skinned leader of our government is doing or has done that are basically evil. (There is real evil in the world.) He is busily leading all the evil lemmings in the Republican Party off a cliff that will go a long way towards cleaning up corruption in Washington.

I am still fundamentally a pessimist, but I do recognize;

It is far better to live in the sunlight where you can see what is good and what is evil than to try to hide yourself in the darkness and hope the wolves that are hunting you simply never sniff you out.

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Filed under autobiography, commentary, education, empathy, humor, kids, Paffooney, philosophy, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Found Poetry

by Sergio Aragon├ęs

Found poetry begins with three found things

Picked up at random

Like three pictures from my internet gallery

Plagiarized from somebody’s fandom

oil painting by Maxfield Parrish

And then you have to sit and have a thought

About how it fits together

To make a stupid poem you’ve wrought

That’s not about the weather

Movie image by Woody Allen featuring Woody Allen

You must pretend the very best you can

There’s sense in what you’ve found

And it fits together as if you had a plan

That was always quite profound.

———————————————————————————————–wow!-a-weird-divider————————-

Writing a found poem

Okay, this is the essay part. That first part is a terrible poem written by me to illustrate how to make your own found poem. Of course, you should know that I was not a natural-born poet. I am among the lower percentages of America’s worst-possible poets. Right there somewhere between the poetry books of Farley Bumbletongue and the Collected Musings of Hans Poopferbrains of Snarkytown, Wisconsin.

But I take great pride in my abilities as a terrible poet. You see, what I mainly was, truly was, was an English teacher of middle school and high school kids. And found poems were an activity in the classroom intended to teach writing skills, creativity, and an appreciation of what a poem actually is.

I needed a large usable picture file cut out of Christmas catalogs, Walmart advertisements, newspapers, magazines (“What are those?” is the most common comment you would get out of today’s classrooms,) grocery-store bargain flyers, outdated calendars, and any other non-pornographic picture sources available.

I would hand out three random images pulled out of the picture file without looking at them to each student (or small groups of students) and then require them to create a poem of at least twelve lines with an optional rhyme scheme and rhythm.

I would have to remind them not to eat the pictures, even if they were pictures of food. And with middle school students I would have to have extra pictures for the next class to replace the ones they ate anyway.

I would tell them there was a time-limit, specified to be much shorter than the actual time I planned to give them, and then let them create horrible poetry. Near Vogon quality in its horribleness.

When all of this was done, we would have a good long laugh by sharing the pictures and poems, and find out who the truly wacky and perverted poets were.

Now, don’t go telling parents that we teachers are wasting their children’s precious learning time this way, but it is not I lesson I created. Simply a lesson I used at least once every year.

But the real question on my mind is, “Given three random pictures, what kind of poem would you write?” Feel free to share.

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Filed under education, humor, kids, poem, poetry, teaching