Tag Archives: high school

Return of the School Daze

Today, school starts, and my two over-large babies are toddling off to two different campuses on opposite sides of the city.  My wife, of course, is still teaching and has a job to get to, so the responsibility for getting happy little kids to happy little schools (more accurately, big, nasty-smelling gathering spots for belligerent and borderline delinquent teenagers) is mine alone.


Seriously, it was not a good way to start the day.  I got out of bed feeling moderately ill as the mold spores in the air have been heavy enough to really give the gift of swelling to my COPD restricted lungs.  I grabbed breakfast, an egg burrito with salsa, and quickly discovered the salsa had at least three ingredients in it that I am allergic to (not fatally allergic like a peanut allergy, just GAWD-I-HAVE-TO-VOMIT!!! allergic).

I got in the car after delivering my breakfast to the upstairs toilet, and was only a pale shade of green still, when wifey calls the Princess and I, three blocks down the road, and makes us come back for a first-day-of-school photo, which she now possesses ten of, kindergarten through ninth grade.  So, still determined to get there early, a new school that I had never taken a kid to before, we immediately ran into a pile of rush-hour traffic on Josey Lane.  The road crew had put out cones to indicate another mindless digging project so they could laugh at fuming, frustrated motorists while they stood by the side of the road and had donuts and coffee.  The school is less than a mile from my house, but the traffic jam was easily going to last for an hour or more and make us late, so we executed plan B.  I used Google Maps to chart a route that was only three times as long, and we got there in about fifteen minutes.

Blue and Mike in color

But the school parking lot was a worse design for drop-offs than the one I had been teaching at for seven years before I retired.  It had loads of entry access, but limited exits.  In other words, it is a place for parents and old elephants to go when they are ready to die.  It might’ve been easier to get out of if there hadn’t been so many old junk cars with human skeletons in them dispersed throughout the parking lot.  45 minutes later, I got out, but not before the engine overheated on my little Ford pony.  And I just had a new coolant pump and thermostat put in a week ago.  Ah, well… this is going to be an interesting year.


Filed under autobiography, daughters, education, family, feeling sorry for myself, humor, Paffooney, pessimism

The 40-Year Class Reunion

This Goodwill rescue Barbie is stamped 1966, but an irate collector once pointed out to me that is no indication of when this doll was actually made and sold.

This Goodwill rescue Barbie is stamped 1966, but an irate collector once pointed out to me that is no indication of when this doll was actually made and sold.

One of the main reasons that I went to Iowa this Summer at the time that I did was because the Belmond High School Class of 1975 was having a reunion dinner for the 40th anniversary of the high school getting rid of all of our dumb behinds all at once, an entire class full of mooks and monkey-heads and minions.  I desperately wanted to see them again… for possibly the last time in our lives.  It has been 40 years.  Seven of us are gone (more than 10% of a small, rural Iowegian high school class).  And now I want to tell stories about them and relentlessly make fun of them… though I will change the names to protect the innocent… and the ones I like… which is all of them.

We had the hootenanny at the Belmond Country-Club and Golf Course (and no, we were not eating golf balls… the most favorite of all Belmond restaurants had been destroyed by a tornado not long ago, and is now re-opened at the Country-Club grounds).  I was really hoping to see my best friend there, Dr. Bilbo Bonaduce… the mook in the lobster shirt in high school that always got my jokes in Mr. Salcomb’s English classes, but never laughed… because he always needed to top them.  (That goof-ball was willing to say out loud in front of everyone the kind of jokes I could only whisper to him behind my hand… needless to say, I only basked in the laughs second-hand.)   Unfortunately, he was not there.  He suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and may not even still be among the living.  It has been a decade since I last saw or heard from him.  Gee, this part of the story is not nearly as funny and uplifting as I had planned.  But, then, time and fortune are not universally kind.

I did get to see the boy I fell in love with in Junior High.  Now, that is not exactly what it sounds like.  Neither of us were ever gay, and both have children by the one and only wives that we each married.  I loved him because he was magical.  He relied on my big brain to help him in Math and History, and I relied on him as we played together, side by side, in football, basketball, and track.  As a teammate, he always made me better at what I was doing.  I tackled harder and shot the ball more accurately and ran faster because he was always there encouraging me.  I was actually the better athlete of the two of us (in my unbiased opinion), but he lettered in three sports when I did not letter in any.  He dated the girl I had the hugest crush of my life upon… for a while… and got all the glory.  But I shared in it because he was my friend and the “shiny” rubbed off on me.  He grew up to be the only farmer in our class who is still actually farming.  Still living the life we once knew.  God, Roger, I never envied you more, and I love you still.

This is a picture of Brent Clarke, not Roger Williams.  Character and inspiration?  Maybe.

This is a picture of Brent Clarke, not Roger Williams. Character and inspiration? Maybe.

I spent the most time talking to three people I had not talked to much in 40 years… Rachel McMichaels was one of the organizers of the dinner.  She was the brainiest girl in our class and the Valedictorian in high school.  The scuttlebutt was that if I courted and married Rachel, all our children would have frizzy white hair and mustaches like Albert Einstein.  She was as warm and caring as ever.  She asked all about my family and told me one or two things about hers.  There was never a flicker of romance between us in high school… probably because of all the teasing… but I do realize what a good thing was always there to be missed out on entirely.

Daniel Mastermill was there too.  We sat beside each other in the front row of the infamous Miss Rubelmacher’s seventh-grade Science class.  The terrifying Miss R sat us there together in her seating chart because of size.  Daniel, in seventh grade, was even shorter and scrawnier than I was.  At the reunion, he was telling me the story (which I had never heard before) of his family’s buried treasure.  It seems that his parents buried a treasure on their family farm, and told the children that it was there, but never gave them a treasure map, or told them what was in the treasure.  The old folks apparently died without telling where it was buried, and the children spent weeks digging up everything they dared to dig up looking for it before the farm was sold.  The treasure is apparently still there.

And I sat next to Reggie Simmery all during the meal.  Everybody talks to Reggie.  He was the class clown.  We were sitting across the table from Angela Oberkfell, the classmate who was also the Junior High School Principal’s  daughter, and listened to a recounting of several times Reg was subjected to paddlings, stern lectures, and even a couple of suspensions.  Reggie could never resist the temptation to say or do the most ridiculous, stupid, and pointless things his little peanut-butter-powered brain could think of.  And he always laughed about everything, even when Angela’s dad whacked him on the behind with a board of education.

The reunion was a disappointment because I didn’t see all the people I wanted to see.  Even the girl I had the greatest crush of my life upon was not there.  (Clever of her to avoid me.)  But I saw people I needed to see, and felt the things I needed to feel, about a time and place so long ago now, and my heart is full… re-filled to the brim.



Filed under high school, humor, Paffooney

A Beastiary for the Modern Classroom

There is a certain order to everything in the universe.  Beginning teachers or substitutes that have never done the job before may think otherwise, walking into a classroom populated by modern teenage beasties.  It looks like utter chaos to the casual observer, and it is.  But there is an underlying order (kinda like some of my sillier corkscrew-shaped paragraphs with all the purple-paisley prImageose and over-long parenthetic expressions).  You have to recognize the critters for what they are and then, you may have a chance to deal with them.

First on the list are the dominant predators, the bullies, the snarks, and the outright evil ones.  The most important battles you have to fight as a teacher are the ones for dominance in the classroom.  The teacher is rarely the dominator, and usually the dominatee, so you must proceed with great caution.  At the top of the pecking order are the Pepsi People.  I call them Pepsi People in a Coca Cola World because they are mainstream, but slightly different than the usual.  Actually, since most of these are actually female, we shall refer to them as Pepsi Girls.  They are the ones that usually dominate the modern high school classroom.  Their parents have enough money at least to buy them home computers and digital cameras so they can post pictures of their bare behinds on Myspace and Facebook.  They enjoy showing off boobies too, if they have them already, which they usually do.  There are a lot of prerequisites to being a Pepsi Girl.  It also helps if they are a cheerleader.  In Texas, cheerleaders sometimes run not only the classroom, but the whole school.  They put the pep in Pepsi.  In fact, many of them suffer from an excess of what I like to call Cheerleader Pep-itis, a dread disease that makes you strut, bat your eyes at boys, and give stupid answers to the teacher on purpose, because it is so not cool to be, like, you know… smart.  A teacher who gives one of these detention or, heaven forbid! a failing grade, will soon be facing parents who will make you recount every last detail of she-said-you-said-and-her-last-words.  The parents may be secretly on your side, but they are afraid of her too, and they have to say and do the right thing, or there will be trouble at home.  Pepsi Girls are large and in charge, even when they are little-bitty young things with a big mouth and cute behind.  You mostly deal with Pepsi Girls by letting them have their way… or by standing up to them and being told by the principal privately that you have to let them have their way.

Snarks can be girls, but this sort of foul American predator is usually a boy, usually on drugs for attention deficit disorder, and more often than that, the kid all the other kids in class would point to as the one in charge of the class.  Granted, he usually is the one that holds center stage the longest with his repetoire of snappy comebacks for teachers like, “Yeah, whut…?”  But they do actually yield to Pepsi Girls on all occasions when the two species come into conflict.  They are the thin, wired boy most likely to get up and dance for the class for no particular reason, or the fat one that sits in the far back of the room even if you assign him a seat in the front so he can continually interrupt lessons on helping verbs with helpful comments about the size of somebody’s mother’s body parts.  They are also the child most likely to disrobe completely in the middle of class, or hit the teacher in the back of the head with a large, juicy spitball and then claim that it was an accident, and besides, Jorge did it anyway, not the one that stands accused because you saw him chawing the wad of paper to make the spitball.  On many occasions I greet this kind of child at the doorway at the start of class with a detention slip and a magical pass to the office to talk with their good friend, the assistant principal in charge of discipline.  They will say, “WAITTAMINNUT!  I haven’t done anything wrong!”  To which I must answer, “Yes, that’s true, but I decided to give you detention anyway for the evil plan I can see you have already formulated in your head.”  To which they will reply, “oh… Okay.”  You can only win by getting them out of your classroom.

My favorites, though, are the Invisible Kids.  These are the kids that can sit in your classroom all year, and when they leave, you will no longer be able to remember what they looked like, sounded like, or even smelled like.  They keep it all in.  The only time you really have any trouble at all with them is when you ask them a question and actually expect them to say something out loud as an answer.  The only thing you will ever get from them is a note that says, “I can’t talk today.  I have acute larnigitis and can’t talk at all.  Ask me the question after school on Thursday, and I’ll tell you then.”   They never cause noise or disruption in the classroom.  They are more often the victims of the Snarks or the Pepsi Girls, and you really can’t blame them for trying to keep their head down and the big red target off their back.  I like them because, if I put in the work to draw them out, they are usually real people with actual lives.  They can be interesting and funny.  You never realize it in class, but these are also the kids that understand your jokes, and laugh at them with their friends at the mall after school is out.

I could go on and on with specific examples of all of these varied middle school anniemules, but it is a premise that is probably already starting to bore you.  I have that effect on people.  After all, I am an English teacher.  But let me leave off by saying, I’m really going to miss this job when I retire soon to drool in the corner at the local mental health facility (or become a Walmart greeter if I can manage to mindless smile).  It’s not the same when you are not the everyday teacher and get to know all the Pepsi People, Snarks, Bullies, Invisibles, Tecky Trekkies, Gomers, and Goths by their first names, and sometimes their middle names too.  I do hate them all, especially on Thursdays… but over time you learn to love them all too.

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