Tag Archives: autobiography

Retirement Sinks In…

There comes a time in every career when the career is over and it has to end.  I spent 310 years teaching in Middle School and High School and loved every minute of it.  (Okay, divide the years by ten and subtract about twelve thousand minutes from the love… but I did love it.)  And I was good at it.  (At least, in my own confused little mind… I have photographic proof that I did help students get some quality sleep time in, but… hey, English is supposed to be boring.)

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Eight years ago I was forced to make the decision to leave the job I loved.  Failing health and failing finances made it increasingly hard to do the job.  I was never a sit-behind-the-desk teacher.  I had to do the dance… up this row, down that one… lean over the spit-wad shooter before he could adequately aim and pull the stray cafeteria straw out of his mouth… suggest the verb needs to have an “s” on it if the subject of the sentence the student just wrote for me is singular…  stand in front of the boy who can’t listen to my wonderful teaching because the girl across the room is wearing a dress and I have to block his view… and he doesn’t even like that girl, but she’s wearing a dress… you can see her legs… and he’s a teenager… you know, the dance of teaching.  When you walk with a cane and have a back brace on every single work day, the dance becomes harder and harder as the year wears on.  I got to spend my days with Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut and Maya Angelou and Robert Frost… and even more important I got to spend my days with Pablo and Sofie and Ruben and Rita and Keith…  I had so many more favorite students than I ever had those black-banes-of-a-teacher’s-existence kids that other teachers were always talking about in the faculty lounge.  (I rarely hung out in the faculty lounge because they tended to talk bad about kids I really loved and enjoyed teaching… and besides, I had crap to actually do before the next class came in.  Lounging was rarely an option.)

I confess that I have spent a good deal of this school year depressed and feeling sorry for myself.  No kids to talk to on a daily basis except my own, and even with them, only after school or work.  My wife is still teaching… so I rarely see her.  (Am I married?  I need to double-check.)  I fill the lonely hours with writing and story-telling and recollections of days past… and I am beginning to come to terms with my loss.  In retirement I can do more of the things that I always wanted to do… but never had time for.  I can draw and paint and write and sing (pray hard I don’t start posting videos of me singing!) and play with my toys… I have even decided to write a novel about people playing with toys.  Would I ever teach again if suddenly I was healthy and could do it again…?  YOU BETTER BELIEVE I WOULD!  In fact, I was able to be a substitute teacher again from the Fall of 2019 to the start of the pandemic in 2020.  IF ONLY IT COULD’VE LASTED A LITTLE BIT LONGER!

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Hoarding Disorder

Pinkie PieI am writing this post today to celebrate two things.  My doctor’s visit today not only came back with positive post-op results (no cancer cells  in the cyst), but it was free.  And while I waited at Walmart for my prescription to be filled at the pharmacy, I found the two Equestria Girls that finish my collection.  I spent the co-pay (that I didn’t have to pay) on Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy (I made that rhyme without a try!)  Yay me!

But I have also come to the sobering realization that my collecting mania may actually be a form of mental illness.  After all, my daughter is now 20 and not really interested in My Little Pony any longer.  That excuse no longer flies.  My wife has lost interest in collecting also (although she still collects clothes and shoes with a gusto that shames Imelda Marcos.)

So why do I do this collecting thing so relentlessly?  Is it a serious mental disorder?  As always I turned to the internet to diagnose myself with life-threatening conditions based on one, or possibly  two symptoms.   I may be doomed.  What I found was an explanation of Hoarding Disorder.

Yes, I inherited it from Grandma Beyer.  She hoarded all sorts of stuff in her little house in Mason City, Iowa.  In her basement, when they cleaned out the house, she still had wrapping paper from Christmases in the 1930’s.  It was in stacks. neatly folded and ready to be re-used.  According to the Psychology Today website article about extreme collecting, one of the first signs of the disorder is the inability to part with personal possessions no matter their actual value.  Never in all the years we spent Christmases together did I ever notice Grandma re-using wrapping paper.  She actually kept that stuff for the memories they invoked and the sentimental value they held for her.  My mother ended up throwing out all that wrapping paper when the house was sold.

Another indicator is the extreme cluttering of the home, to the point of rendering living spaces unlivable.  One glance at the upstairs hallway sends shivers down my weak little hoarder’s spine.

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There are any number of things that might concern a psychiatrist in this hallway.  Of course, the blocked door in the back is where the old non-working air-conditioner is stashed, so there is no room in there for stuffing more stuff.  This picture reveals that I have a vast collection of collections… not merely one.  I collect stuffed toys, HO model railroad stuff and trains, Pez dispensers, stamps, coins, comic books (in the boxes in the back corner under the stuffed toys), and books… gobs, and gobs, and gobs of books!  (“Gobs” is Iowegian for “lots”, not “sailors”.)  In fact, the door on the left is actually the door to the library.

A quick scan of Toonerville along the tops of the bookshelves reveals the full extent of my madness.  Here you see HO-sized buildings, most of which I painted myself or built from kits.  You also see the Pez dispensers that suck money out of my pockets at $1.50 a shot. Downtown Toonerville Downtown Toonerville2My trains have been around for many years.  I shared that obsession with my father (Grandma Beyer’s eldest son) when I was a boy and most of these trains were either gifts from him, or purchased with allowance.  (I haven’t bought anything new in seven years.)

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So, the evidence makes it clear.  One day soon I will be locked up somewhere in a padded room.  I hope, at least, that my children still like me well enough to sneak in Pez dispensers when they come to visit.

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Those Were the Days

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Pictures from picturehistory.comwww.edb.utexas.edutexasescapes.com, and lbjmuseum.com

My personal history as a school teacher begins in the 1981-82 school year in a little town in South Texas called Cotulla.  Without realizing it, I was following in the footsteps of former U.S. President LBJ.  Really!  It’s true!  To prove it, here is a picture from the LBJ Museum showing the big-eared, jug-headed goofball with his class of Mexican American Cotullans.

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His class looked a lot like my first class, only a lot smaller.  I was hired by the new junior high principal to be the 8th-Grade English teacher for Frank Newman Junior High.  The school had basically imploded the year before.  Gus the janitor told me that the previous principal had been robbed several times, with kids breaking into the main office in the middle of the building during the middle of the night.  They even broke open the safe.  Some of the same kids I was supposed to teach had been arrested for assault the previous year, and some of the kids were caught making babies in the school cafeteria.  I went into the same classroom that the previous year’s seventh grade class had used to drive poor Miss Finklebine out of teaching for life.  They had set off firecrackers under her chair.  They threw erasers and chalk at each other.  They almost got away with murder…  In fact, they may have gotten away with it.  Miss F was never heard from again, and I found a very long list of self-destructive rantings (in the form of discipline reports that had apparently never been turned in) in her desk that threatened the lives of several students whom I knew for certain had survived because they were in my eighth grade classes that year.  I don’t think they tracked her down and got her… but what they did to that poor woman’s mind may have pushed her over the edge.  I had a tough year that year.  The two boys who threatened to beat me to death with a fence post they picked up when I was marching kids in a line to the cafeteria, El Mouse and El Talan, both went to prison within five years of being in my class.  Both of them are now deceased.  El Mouse by suicide after the Texas Syndicate wrecked him in prison, and Talan was shot and killed by a rival drug dealer while his wife and family looked on.  I hope you are not laughing at the moment.  I do often exaggerate for humorous effect… but that is not what I am doing here.

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Cotulla was once a wild west town, probably worse than anything Hollywood ever put up on the silver screen.  Former Mayor and descendant of the town’s founder, Bill Cotulla, once told me that they had six-gun shoot-outs on Front Street in the 1880’s.  I met Mr. Van Cleve the former Texas Ranger whose picture is in the Waco Texas Rangers’ Hall of Fame because of the border machine-gun shoot-out in the 1940’s.  In fact, I taught English to his grandson.  The school, just like the town, was a tamable thing.  I spent the next 23 years of my life there teaching mostly Spanish-speaking kids about the wonders of English, literature, and writing.  I saw the school go from a rough-and-tumble wild beginning into a program that routinely out-performed other small schools our size in everything but Math.

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I know that you may find this part difficult to swallow… in the same way a goat has never managed to swallow an entire school bus… but my fiction books about school kids in Iowa are really mostly about characters I knew and taught in Cotulla, Texas and only slightly merged with the white-bread Iowegians I grew up with in Rowan, Iowa.  Texas and Iowa have more in common than you might think…  Me, for one thing.

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Allegro Non Troppo

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Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain from Disney’s Fantasia

 

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The old faun

In musical terms, Allegro Non Troppo means fast tempo, but not too fast.  So, I recently discovered that Allegro Non Troppo is one of many rare and obscure old movies which I am passionate about that can be found in its entirety on YouTube.  I will include the YouTube link to a portion of it at the end of this post, and I sincerely recommend that if you have never seen this movie, you watch the whole thing at least once.  No matter how many cringes or winces or blushes it causes, this is a movie of many bizarre parts that you really need to take in as a whole.  It ranges from the ridiculous to the sublime, the atrociously ugly to the lyrically beautiful, from the brilliant classical score being played by a mistreated band of old ladies with orchestral instruments to a gorilla running amok,  from Debussy to Ravel, from an artist released from his cage to single-handedly draw the animation, to a satire rich with baudy humor making fun of no less a work of animation than Prisney’s..  I mean Disney’s Fantasia.  The dark elements are there.  The light-hearted, lilting comedy is there.  The fairy tale delicacy and technicolor dreaming is all there.

And why should this be important to me?  Especially now that I am retired from a long and fruitful teaching career?  Well, I have history with this movie.  I saw it first in college.  I was an English major, but I took every film as literature class I could fit into my silly schedule.  As an undergrad, I was determined to be a cartoonist for a career.  I took classes seriously and aced most of them, but I was at college to intellectually play around.  I didn’t take the prescribed courses to be an English teacher.  That had to wait for the more responsible me to come along in grad school for that.  I saw both Fantasia and Allegro Non Troppo during one of the play-time years.  Much as the old satyr in Claude Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, I was enamored with sensory experience.  I took my first girlfriend to see Disney’s Fantasia, and she later turned down the opportunity to see Allegro Non Troppo with me.   Good sense on her part, but the beginning of the end of our relationship.155154089_640  Just as Fantasia has the part in it where Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring describes evolution from the beginning of the Earth to the end of the dinosaurs, Allegro Non Troppo uses Ravel’s Bolero to describe the evolution of life on a weird planet from germs in a discarded Coke bottle to the inevitable coming of the malevolent monkey who is ultimately us.  And, of course, the satire would not be complete without some off-set for Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Allegro-Non-Troppo As near as I can figure it out, the apprentice, played by Mickey Mouse, becomes the snake from the Garden of Eden in Allegro Non Troppo.  When the snake is unable to get Adam and Eve to eat the apple, he makes the mistake of eating the apple himself.  He learns the hard way that, no matter how clever, even diabolically clever, you think you are, you are not really in control of anything in life.  Every would-be wizard in the world has to understand that he is powerless without hard experience.  And what a boring world full of naked people this would be if there were never any apprentices in it foolish enough to actually become wizards. 200_s  Of coufantasia_august2012_blogpromorse, I haven’t really talked about the most heart-twisting part of Allegro Non Troppo… the sad cat wandering the ruins of his former home, or the most laugh-aloud part with the super-tidy little lady-bee trying to eat a blossom, but being interrupted by a couple of picnickers.

allegronontroppo2 03  But the thing is, this movie is a timely subject for me.  Not only did I, just yesterday, rediscover it, but it still has the same meaning for me now as it did when I first saw it.  Then I was an aspiring young artist who loved this movie because it approached ideas non-consecutively, just as I approached my learning years… rambling here and there, finding first a bitter-sweet something, and then a sad beauty behind everything in life.  And it is where I am again now, in a poor-health enforced retirement… divorced from teacher’s schedules and time itself.  Able to do as I please, and aspiring once again to commit great acts of art.

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Teaching Los Vatos Locos

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I have spent the majority of my teaching career teaching Spanish speakers in South Texas.  So, believe me when I say that for a gringo like me, there has to be some kind of art to it.  I have taught so many surly, excessively macho boys and very feminine, but definitely aggressive girls, that I think I may have found an insight or two on how to do it.

First, you must be brave.  And you must recognize that bravery means remaining outwardly calm while on the inside your heart is pounding wildly and you are fighting not to wet your pants.  My first year we had to walk our eighth grade boys to and from the cafeteria four blocks away on another campus.  I, being a rookie teacher, was given the delightful job of forcing the two most evil vato locos (crazy dudes) to return to classes and schoolwork after lunch instead of wandering off for the afternoon.  I had to face down El Mouse and El Talan and convince them to catch up to the rest of the class without killing me.  I have to say, at that point I did not have a forceful personality and could not give the laser eye of death that all South Texas teachers need to develop.  I didn’t make the mistake of saying please, but implied I could actually do something to them to make their lives more miserable if they didn’t let themselves be herded along like cattle.  El Talan picked up a metal fence post as if it was a baseball bat, and I got the chance to review my whole short life for a few tense seconds.  But they relented.  I didn’t show fear, and they put down the post and sauntered on with their lives.  I got them back to the corral for afternoon classes.  Both of them went to prison after dropping out of school.  Both of them are dead now.  One was killed by a rival drug dealer.  I made the mistake of telling that tale to my mother.  At the time, she nearly submitted my resignation for me.

Second, I learned you must have a heart.  Veteran teachers told me that I should not smile before winter break, and even then, I should only smile at students’ misfortunes.   That advice turned out to be a vat of puppy doo.  I learned early on that students are people.  They have feelings.  They will return what they get.  Unfortunately they often dish out what they get from other teachers, from parents, and even from local law enforcement.  But more than once I was given a kid that everyone else said was a bad kid, and I treated that kid like a human bean… er, I mean being… and was forever after that kid’s favorite teacher, and someone that they would do anything for.  I was one of those teachers who kids return to visit.  Faces would appear in my doorway often like so many blooming flowers, blossoms lit up with sunshine.  They would be high school kids who came back to get an encouraging word, or graduates coming by to tell me how successful they were.  Often they came because of something they remembered from class.  They felt they had to share their sunshine.  Believe me, sometimes it was vital to me to be able to continue to get a little of that sunlight in the midst of daily darkness.

I have to confess, I did not reach every kid.  Some have made poor choices and died from them.  Some have turned to the dark side of the force and are unrepentantly Darth Vader.  Some I could not stand and did everything in my power to extinguish their bad behaviors with punishments that never worked.  Some that I could not stand were among the ones that came back to visit too.  Funny how you can do everything you possibly can to defeat a kid, and they will still come around, still tell you that you were their favorite teacher, and the only thing they remembered about middle school was something that happened in your classroom. It’s not even always something you want them to remember.

The kid in today’s Paffooney was not one of the bad ones.  Manuel was the son of a border patrol agent.  He was smart.  He knew what was right and what was wrong.  I don’t know where he is now, or what he is doing, but I believe in him, and I know he was worth every effort I ever put into teaching him.

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Jungle Boy

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When I was 12, my favorite novel was Rudyard Kipling’s First Jungle Book.  I loved it.  From page one to the last sentence of the story about the White Seal.  I owned a paperback copy that I still have 45 years later.  I bought it from the school book order form, Scholastic, I think.  I used my allowance money, earned at a nickel a week.  Along with the chapter books I had read previously, The Swiss Family Robinson, the White Stag, and Treasure Island, it guided my view of life.  Every grove and forest in Iowa became the jungle in the summer of 1968.  The windswept fields of corn and soy beans easily transformed into tropical seas.  I imagined pirates, natives, and buried treasures everywhere.  When I found a piece of a brass candlestick with the necessary curved part, which became the cursed Ahnk from The Jungle Book.  Midnight, Grandma Aldrich’s blue-eyed black cat, became my Bagheera.  I traveled with an invisible Baloo.  You know, it was only a year or so before that when I saw the Disney movie.  So, of course, dancing and singing was a part of being a jungle boy.

In the book, unlike the movie, Mowgli was naked in the jungle.  He didn’t wear clothes until the first time he submitted himself to the man village.  He took them off again when he escaped.  I had to try that too.  I went to the BinghamPark woods down by the Iowa River.  I found a tree where I could put my clothes, and I took everything off.  I figured roaming the woods like Mowgli would be great.  Boy, I was a stupid child.  Problem number one struck with my first naked step in the forest.  Dang!  There must not be any twigs or nettles in Mowgli’s jungle.  I tried hopping from place to place, but in minutes I was wearing at least my socks and shoes.  Hanging branches and brambles were a problem, too.  They clutched at me, striping me with welts and scrapes.  Certain parts you just don’t want pricked by a bramble bush.  It was like God suddenly planted those pointed things everywhere.  Okay, shoes and socks and shorts.  Well, then I began to get cold.  Iowa is never very warm even in the height of summer.  I had already defeated the whole naked in the forest thing when I put my shorts back on, so, what the heck!  It just didn’t work like I thought.

I still believed that the ways of the jungle were an essential part of my young life.  I read and reread what the Jungle Book says about the “Law of the Jungle”.  I tried to make sense of it as a credo to live by.  Of course, at twelve we are always among the wisest and all-knowing of God’s creatures.  We can make sense of the world in our own weird little way, and no one will ever be able to sway us from the philosophy we live by, no matter how silly it is.  I still think about my “Jungle Book Period” as an important part of my young life.  There are things about young Mowgli and Jim Hawkins and the Robinsons that formed a significant part of my character.  I would one day make use of those determined and resourceful qualities to stay alive in the classroom jungles of South Texas.  I tried to make others see it.  I shared Kipling and Stevenson with kids and hoped that I could make them learn, as I did, how to be that little boy facing and succeeding against the dangerous jungle around him.

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Sanctuary

This is my library, the place where I keep my books.  It is also a place for my doll collection and the Dungeons and Dragons game that I’ve been playing with my kids for more than a decade.  It is a place to read and think and… oh, yeah, there’s an X-Box also.  Well, that’s one way to get the kids to spend time there too.

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I do realize what a jumbled mess it is.  The shelves are all cheap Walmart kits that I built myself.  Some have been damaged over time and travel.  I have rebuilt them, restocked them, and rearranged them time and again.

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This reading nook is currently being used to display parts of my Captain Action collection.  The Captain America costume on the left is my original property from Christmas 1967.  The Steve Canyon costume next to it is an E-bay purchase and a rare find from a decade ago.  Aquaman is a combination.  The mask, trident,conch horn, and swim fins are from my original set from Christmas 1966.  The suit itself had to be replaced from E-Bay because I played with it until it was no more than a mass of frayed thread.  The gloves come from a innovative toy company called Classic Plastick run by Wes McCue.  http://classicplastick.proboards.com/  You may notice cups and junk left by kids in my library.  Cheetos wrappers from food that my daughter the Princess loves are often found crammed in between the books.

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This alcove is where I store my customized Star Wars’ Twi’leck Barbie which I made myself with acrylic paint, Sculpey plasticine, exacto-knife, and Crazy Glue.  It also is where I store my antique book collection, some of which are a hundred years old or more.  (I have books from my Grandparents’ libraries as well as some from my own childhood.)

Let me show you the Star Wars shelf.  (It is not big enough for all my twelve-inch Star Wars action figures, but… oh, well.

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Here is the back side of the shelf.  (How did topless Mermaid Barbie get in there?)20150110_134644

I also have a corner for the X-Box and the TV it is attached to.  (But Dr. Evil is holding it hostage at this writing.)

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And finally, let me bore you with the fact that the small upstairs bedroom that is now the library does not have enough room to contain all my books.  The library also fills up the upstairs hall and large portion of my bedroom/studio.

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It has been said that my library is as cluttered as my mind is.  But don’t you believe it.  My inner world makes this manifestation in the outer world look Spartan by comparison.

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The Cowboy Code

When I was a boy playing cowboys and Indians with cap pistols and rubber tomahawks, we all knew that cowboys had a code.  The guy in the white hat always shoots straight.  He knows right from wrong.  He only shoots the bad guy.  He even shoots the gun out of the bad guy’s hand if he can.  Westerns are about right and wrong, good and bad, and the unyieldingly good knights of the plains.

And boys believe what they see on TV and in the movie theaters.  People who make television shows never lie, do they?  In fact, Wyatt Earp was based on a real guy who really lived and really shot the bad guys at the gosh-darn real OK Corral.

Daniel Boone was a real guy too.  He faced the opening up of new lands full of deadly dangers.  And when Fess Parker played him in 1964, wearing Davy Crockett’s coonskin hat, he walked the earth like a guardian angel, making everyone safe by the end of the episode.  He even knew which Indians were good and which were bad.  Mingo was always on Daniel’s side.  And when they spoke to each other about the dangers they faced, it was never about killing the people they feared.  It was about doing what is was right, about helping the community at Boonesboro to survive.  Being encouraging… looking forward to a more settled future created by following the cowboy frontier code.

So, I am left wondering what ever happened to the cowboy code?  I listen to Republican presidential candidates talking about dipping bullets in pig’s blood to kill Muslims, and building walls against Mexican immigrants, and why our right to carry assault rifles is sacred, and I wonder what happened.  Didn’t they experience the same education from the television versions of the Great American Mythology?  Didn’t they learn the code too?

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I am old enough now to know that cap guns are not real guns and you cannot solve problems by shooting somebody.  But that was never the point of the cowboy code.  We need straight-shooters again in our lives, not to shoot people, but to tell the unvarnished truth.  We need wise people who can tell who are the good Indians and who are the bad   We need them to shoot the weapons out of the bad guys’ hands.  And I know that’s asking for leaders to be larger than life and be more perfect than a man can actually be.  But Daniel Boone was a real man.  Myths and legends start with a fundamental truth.

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The Oubliette

Every Dungeons and Dragons player, especially game masters, know about the oubliette.  In the foundations of towers in the castles of the French you often find a windowless room with the only entrance in the ceiling.  It is a dark hole where you throw captives you want to simply forget.  In fact, the name comes from the word in Middle French, “oublier” which translates to “forget”.  Now, of course, as a former school teacher, I know about oubliettes.  I have been in one more than once.  I have tossed bad kids in there more than once.  But the thing I had to learn about “forget holes” is that there is always a way out.

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I had a principal who decided I had betrayed him because he overheard me talking sympathetically to a teacher he had been berating for asking that he discipline students she sent to him for disruptive behavior.  He overheard me saying that he would be more understanding if he tried to manage a class himself once in a while.  For my indiscretion he took away my gifted class and gave me in its place a class composed entirely of students who had been repeatedly sent to him by teachers for being disruptive and unmanageable.  It was a class from hell.  Really… from hell… Satan’s stepson was the first student he put in that class.  I was told I would have to discipline them entirely without help from him.  But as tough as it is teaching twenty dysfunctional learners at once with no outside help, it was do-able.  In fact, I liked some of the kids in that class.  (Hated some too, though, because you can’t always like every kid no matter how crappy they act.)  I didn’t manage to teach them much English.  They all spoke Skuggboy fluently the whole time.  But I did endure.  In fact, when that principal was suddenly jobless two-thirds of the way through the year and replaced by a new principal, I got a chance to get some back.  She overhead Satan’s stepson doing his comic stand-up routine in response to my specific directions and came in to remind him who was in charge in the classroom and who deserved respect.  That reminder lasted for a good fifteen minutes and was a prelude to a parent-principal conference that same afternoon.  I saw his evil smile turned upside down for the first time that school year.

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Whenever I put a student in the oubliette (asked them to stand outside the classroom door until I could talk to them about their bad behavior) I never left them there more than five minutes.  I would quickly give the class the directions they needed to continue on their own, and then I would go out to execute the prisoner.  It usually was an explanation of how I wanted them to behave, and then giving them a choice, whether they wanted to go back in and do the right thing, or they wanted to visit the office with a written explanation by me of exactly what they did wrong.  Even though nothing would probably happen to them in the office, they rarely chose that option.

So, there is always a way out… but there are many forms of the oubliette, and no one is immune to being sent there.

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The Oubliette

Every Dungeons and Dragons player, especially game masters, know about the oubliette.  In the foundations of towers in the castles of the French you often find a windowless room with the only entrance in the ceiling.  It is a dark hole where you throw captives you want to simply forget.  In fact, the name comes from the word in Middle French, “oublier” which translates to “forget”.  Now, of course, as a former school teacher, I know about oubliettes.  I have been in one more than once.  I have tossed bad kids in there more than once.  But the thing I had to learn about “forget holes” is that there is always a way out.

Eli Tragedy

I had a principal who decided I had betrayed him because he overheard me talking sympathetically to a teacher he had been berating for asking that he discipline students she sent to him for disruptive behavior.  He overheard me saying that he would be more understanding if he tried to manage a class himself once in a while.  For my indiscretion he took away my gifted class and gave me in its place a class composed entirely of students who had been repeatedly sent to him by teachers for being disruptive and unmanageable.  It was a class from hell.  Really… from hell… Satan’s stepson was the first student he put in that class.  I was told I would have to discipline them entirely without help from him.  But as tough as it is teaching twenty dysfunctional learners at once with no outside help, it was do-able.  In fact, I liked some of the kids in that class.  (Hated some too, though, because you can’t always like every kid no matter how crappy they act.)  I didn’t manage to teach them much English.  They all spoke Skuggboy fluently the whole time.  But I did endure.  In fact, when that principal was suddenly jobless two-thirds of the way through the year and replaced by a new principal, I got a chance to get some back.  She overhead Satan’s stepson doing his comic stand-up routine in response to my specific directions and came in to remind him who was in charge in the classroom and who deserved respect.  That reminder lasted for a good fifteen minutes and was a prelude to a parent-principal conference that same afternoon.  I saw his evil smile turned upside down for the first time that school year.

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Whenever I put a student in the oubliette (asked them to stand outside the classroom door until I could talk to them about their bad behavior) I never left them there more than five minutes.  I would quickly give the class the directions they needed to continue on their own, and then I would go out to execute the prisoner.  It usually was an explanation of how I wanted them to behave, and then giving them a choice, whether they wanted to go back in and do the right thing, or they wanted to visit the office with a written explanation by me of exactly what they did wrong.  Even though nothing would probably happen to them in the office, they rarely chose that option.

So, there is always a way out… but there are many forms of the oubliette, and no one is immune to being sent there.

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Filed under forgiveness, humor, Paffooney, teaching