Tag Archives: teaching

My School-Teacher Soapbox

It has been more than a semester now that I have not been a teacher.  I am missing it mightily.  I even miss the yelling and screaming, the name-calling and the crazy-eyed threats against life and limb.  And that’s just me.  I miss what the kids always did too.  This was driven home to me as I tried to move my middle child from one school to another.  We were hoping to get a bit of a break on his placement.  He is a gifted child with a penchant for bizarre and long-lasting obsessions.  He has a talent for building huge, monumental structures in Minecraft.  He is very computer-nerd and history-wonk.  (Yes, I know those are not pure predicate adjectives, but I am a retired English teacher and just don’t care any more.)  I was hoping they could overlook his burnout/blowout eighth-grade brain meltdown from the previous year and give him the chance to be a ninth grader for at least half a year.  No.  Arbitrary rules must be obeyed.  (That isn’t even how she said it.  More like, arbitrary rules MUST be obeyed).  That meant of course that he has to continue to repeat the mindless indoctrination of year number 9, (eight numbered grades plus K), (And Pre-K, come to think of it.)  Make that year number 10.  No high school yet, though he is more than mature enough, intelligent enough, motivated enough, and sweet-natured enough.  We are not loving and forgiving people.  We are strict and by-the-book people!  Forgive me, Lord.  I am writing my own book.  (In more ways than one.)

This is what we are doing wrong in Education;

1.   We are putting people in boxes.  (Little people.  Kids mostly.  We are calling those boxes things like ADHD, Special Education, trouble-maker, learning disabled, emotionally disturbed, disobedient, truant, and “in need of alternative education”… here meaning kid-prison.)

2.  We are sealing those boxes with heavy-duty red tape.  (Read special or remedial classes as waste-baskets for keeping the rabble and the riff-raff out of the good teachers’ hair.)

3.  We are routinely handing those boxes to the box-bangers and package manglers.  (The semi-incompetent teachers who have discipline problems because in teacher college nobody tells you what to do with the kid who sits in the corner and sings to himself instead of paying attention, or the girl who gets out of her seat every time the teacher turns his back to go flitting around the room like a bumble bee going flower to flower (except that it is a more hormonal attraction and goes boy to boy); or the competent teacher like me who incurs the principal’s disfavor for having classes that always make noise and are given such classes in boxes as a punishment because that kind of principal is too limited in intelligence to understand that those kinds of boxes are not really a punishment if you merely take a moment to examine the treasures they contain.)

4.  We keep the boxes air-tight so that no oxygen or light gets in.  (To suffocate learners under piles of worksheets and endless drill and practice is murder.  We are killing the precious learners with boring stuff and teaching them to be zombies who all act alike and hate learning because their brains are rotted masses of goo.)

This is what we must do instead;

1.  Open the boxes up again and thoroughly mix the contents.  (The rich suburban parents will resent the heck out of having their precious honors student sitting in class next to the poor black kid from the projects, but studies show that both kinds of learners do better when they are mixed together.)

2.  Notice, we don’t need two any more, because learners are already distributed to different and diverse boxes based on what they individually need and want to learn about and have talent for.  Groups should be more like the Shakespeare-loving group or the talkative-socializing group or the Tinker-toy builders group or the vampire-literature-writing group and less like groups of kids all the same color or all the same culture or all the same age.

3.  All the teachers need to be trained to handle all the possible… no, make that probable problems that may come up in the classroom.  Every classroom needs a proven veteran teacher and an enthusiastic young apprentice teacher.  Neither one should have to face the evil hordes alone.  And most important of all, any teacher who doesn’t love working with kids (and doesn’t love the kids in a way that will not lead to a prison term) needs be utilized in some way other than as a classroom teacher.

4.  Every classroom is a laboratory and every teacher is a creative and daring mad-scientist-type intent on trying new things and only re-doing things that really work well.  Forget this nonsense about standard curriculum goals and common core curriculum.  Those are only buzz words for suffocating learners and being too lazy to think on your feet in the middle of the every-day classroom battle in the on-going War on Ignorance.

Now you see… I have all the answers and I know everything.  The only mystery is… why don’t more people listen to me?

Tabron

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Filed under humor, Paffooney, teaching

Really Bad Jokes

bozo

If you have the bad habit of reading this particular blog more than once, then you are probably aware that I used to be a public school teacher.  Even worse, I used to be a middle school English teacher.  Aagh!  Seventh graders!  It explains a lot about how life has warped my intelligence, personality, and world view.  It also explains somewhat where I found such a fountain-like source for some of the worst jokes you ever heard.

Now, as to the question of why I have chosen in my retirement early-onset senility to become a humor-blogger… well, that is simply not something I can answer in one post… or even a thousand.  But kids are the source of my goofball clown-brain joking around.

wally

Kid-humor, you see, is stunted and warped in weird ways by the time period you are talking about.  The eighties, nineties, two thousands, and the tens are all very different.  And those are the various sets of students that I attempted to learn moose bowling from by teaching them English.

Still, there are certain universal constants.

Potty humor really kills.  If you want to make a thirteen-year-old crack up with laughter, roll around on the floor, and maybe wet his or her pants, then you only need to work the “poop” word, or the “nickname for Richard” word, or the “Biblical word for donkey” word into the conversation.  Of course the actual words, even though we all know what they actually are, are magical words.  If you actually say them to kids in school as their teacher, those words can actually make you magically and permanently disappear from the front of the classroom.  All kids are big fans of George Carlin and his seven words, even though most of them have never heard of him.

And violent humor is popular with kids from all decades.  The most common punch line in the boys’ bathroom is, “… and then he kicked him in the Biblical word for donkey!” followed closely in second place by, “… and then she kicked him in the Biblical word for donkey!”  I am told (for I don’t actually go in such scary places myself) that in the girls’ bathroom the most popular punch line is, “…so I kicked him right in the soccer balls, and he deserved it!”   Why girls are apparently obsessed with soccer, I don’t know… or particularly care.sweet-thing

So my education in humor began with bad-word jokes, slapstick humor, put-downs, and rude noises coming from unfortunate places.  Humor in the classroom is actually a metaphorical mine field laced with tiger traps, dead-falls that end with an anvil hitting you on the head, or being challenged to a life-or-death game of moose bowling.  (Don’t know what moose bowling is?  Moose bowling is a very difficult game that, in order to knock down all the pins and win, you have to learn to roll a moose down the alley.)  Sounds like I spend too much time watching cartoons and playing video games, doesn’t it?  Well, there’s more.  And it gets worse from here.  But I will spare you that until the next time I am foolish enough to try making excuses for my really bad jokes.

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Filed under autobiography, humor, irony, kids, satire, strange and wonderful ideas about life, teaching, word games, wordplay, writing humor

Writing Every Day

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These are volumes 3&4 of my daily journal that I have kept since the 1980’s.

Writing every single day is something I have been doing since 1975, my senior year in high school.  It is why I claim to be a writer, even though I have never made enough money at it to even begin to think of myself as a professional writer.  I kept a journal/diary/series of notebooks that I filled with junk I wrote and doodles in the margins up until the middle 90’s when I began to put all my noodling into computer files instead of notebooks.  I have literally millions of words piled in piles of notebooks and filling my hard drive to the point of “insufficient memory” errors on my laptop.  I am now 66 years old and have been writing every day for 48 years.

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There are days in the past where I only wrote a word, or a sentence or two.  But there were a lot of words besides the words in my journal.  I started my first novel in college.  I completed it the summer before my first teaching job in 1981.  I put it the closet, never to be thought of again, except when I needed a good cringe and cry at how terrible a writer I once was.  I have been starting, stopping, percolating, piecing together, and eventually completing novel projects ever since… each one goofier and more wit-wacky than the last.  So I have a closet full of those too.

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It would be wrong of me to suggest that my journals are only for words.  As a cartoon-boy-wannabee I doodle everywhere in margins and corners and parts of pages.  Sometimes the doodle is an afterthought.  Sometimes it precedes the paragraph.  Sometimes it is directly connected to the words and their meaning.

Sometimes the work of art is the main thing itself.

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But always, the habit of writing down words and ideas every single day takes precedence over every other part of my day.  That’s the main reason I am stupid enough to think of myself as a writer even though I don’t make a living by writing.

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But I did put my words into my profession too.  As a teacher of writing, I wrote with and to my students.  I did that for 31 years as a classroom teacher, and two years as a substitute.  I required them each to keep a daily journal (though they only got graded for the ones they wrote in class, and then only for reaching the amount of words assigned).  We shared the writing aloud in class, making only positive comments.  I wrote every assignment I gave them, including the journal entries.  They got to see and hear what I could write, and it often inspired them or gave them a structure to hang their own ideas upon.  And often they liked what I wrote and were surprised by it almost as much as I liked and was surprised by theirs.   Being a writer was never a total waste of time and effort.

So am I telling you that if you want to be writer you have to write every day too?  If I have to tell you that… you have totally missed the point.

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Filed under autobiography, blog posting, humor, insight, strange and wonderful ideas about life, teaching, writing, writing teacher

Nerd Class

Skoolgurlz

Back in the 1980’s I was given the gift of teaching the Chapter I program students in English.  This was done because Mrs. Soulwhipple was not only a veteran English teacher, but also the superintendent’s wife.  She was the one gifted with all the star kids, the A & B students, the ones that would be identified as the proper kids to put into our nascent Gifted and Talented Program.  That meant that I would get all the kids that were C, D, & F in most of their classes, the losers, the Special Edwards, the learning disabled, the hyper rocketeers of classroom comedy, and the trouble makers.  And I was given this gift because, not only was I not a principal’s or superintendent’s wife, but I actually learned how to do it and became good at it.  How did I do that, you might ask?  I cheated.  I snooped into the Gifted and Talented teacher training, learned how to differentiate instruction for the super-nerd brain, and then used the stolen information to write curriculum and design activities for all my little deadheads (and they didn’t even know who the Grateful Dead were, so that’s obviously not what I meant).    I treated the little buggers like they were all GT students.  Voila!  If you tell a kid they are talented, smart, and worthy of accelerated instruction… the little fools believe it, and that is what they become.Aeroquest ninjas

Even the goofy teacher is capable of believing the opposite of what is obvious and starts treating them like super-nerds because he actually believes it.  I soon had kids that couldn’t read, but were proud of their abstract problem-solving skills.  I had kids that could enhance the learning of others with their drawing skills, their singing ability, and their sense of what is right and what is wrong.  I had them doing things that made them not only better students for me, but in all their classes.  And I did not keep the methods to my madness a secret, either.  I got so good at coercing other teachers to try new ideas and methods that I got roped into presenting some of the in-service training that all Texas teachers are required by law to do.  And unlike so many other boring sessions we all sat through, I presented things I was doing in the actual classroom that other teachers could also use with success.  The other teachers tried my activities and sometimes made them work better than I did.

Teacher

Yes, I know this all sounds like bragging.  And I guess it probably is.  But it worked.  My kids kept getting better on the standardized tests and the State tests that Texas education loves so much.  And Mrs. Soulwhipple was still the superintendent’s wife, but she did not stay a teacher forever.  She eventually went to a new school district with her husband.  And guess who they started thinking of when the question of who would be the next teacher for the nerd classes was considered.  That’s right, little ol’ Reluctant Rabbit… that goofy man who drew pictures on the board and made kids read like a reading-fiend… me.

So, a new era began in Cotulla.  In addition to still getting to teach all the deadheads (because they weren’t going to trust those precious children to anyone else, naturally), I began teaching at least one edition of Mr. B’s famous Nerd Class every school year.  We actually assigned long novels and great pieces of literature for the kids to read and discuss and study in depth.  Novels like To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt were read.  We began talking about “big ideas”, “connections to the wider world”, and how “things always change”.  We began taking on ideas like making our world better and how to help our community.  Kids began to think they were learning things that were important.  We did special units on Exploring Our Solar System, The World of Mark Twain, Finding the Titanic, and The Tragedy of Native American History.  And we spent as much as a third of the year on each.  I am myself cursed with a high IQ and a very disturbing amount of intelligence.  I am the deepest living stockpile of useless facts and trivia that most of my students would ever meet in their lifetimes.  And even I was challenged by some of the learning we took on.  That’s the kind of thing that makes a teaching career fun.  It kept me teaching and meeting new students and new challenges long after my health issues made it a little less than sensible to keep going.  And if I manage to tell you a few Nerd Class stories in the near future, then at least you stand a chance of knowing a little bit about what-the-heck I am talking about.  So be prepared for the worst.  I am retired now, and have plenty of time for long-winded stories about being a teacher.

 

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Filed under humor, Paffooney, teaching, Uncategorized

Reading Twain for a Lifetime

mark-twain

I wish to leave no doubt unturned like a stone that might have treasure hidden under it.  I love the works of Samuel L. Clemens, better known as Mark Twain.

I have read and studied his writing for a lifetime, starting with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer which I read for myself in the seventh grade, after seeing the musical movie Tom Sawyer starring Johnny Whittaker as Tom.  I caught a severe passion, more serious than a head-cold, for the wit and wisdom with which Twain crafted a story.  It took me a while to acquire and read more… but I most definitely did.  I took an American Literature course in college that featured Twain, and I read and analyzed The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  I also bought a copy of Pudd’nhead Wilson which I would later devour in the same thoroughly literate and pretentious manner as I had Huck Finn.  Copies of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and The Mysterious Stranger were purchased at the same time, though I didn’t read them cover to cover until later during my years as a middle school English teacher.  I should point out, however, that I read and re-read both of those, Connecticut Yankee winning out by being read three times.  As a teacher, I taught Tom Sawyer as an in-class novel assignment in the time when other teachers thought I was more-or-less crazy for trying to teach a 100-year-old book to mostly Hispanic non-readers.  While the lunatic-inspired experiment was not a total success, it was not a total failure either.  Some kids actually liked having me read parts of it aloud to them, and some borrowed copies of the book to reread it for themselves after we finished as a class.

marktwaindvd2006During my middle-school teaching years I also bought and read copies of The Prince and the Pauper, Roughing It, and Life on the Mississippi.  I would later use a selection from Roughing It as part of a thematic unit on Mark Twain where I used Will Vinton’s glorious clay-mation movie, The Adventures of Mark Twain as a way to painlessly introduce my kids to the notion that Mark Twain was funny and complex and wise.

I have also read and used some of Twain’s most famous short fictions.  “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” and “The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg” are both masterpieces of Twain’s keen insight into the human psyche and the goofy and comic corruptions he finds there.

And now, retired old me has most recently read Tom Sawyer Abroad.  And, though it is not one of his finest works, I still love it and am enthralled.  I reviewed it and shared it with you a few days ago.  But I will never be through with Mark Twain.  Not only is there more of him to read, but he has truly been a lifelong friend.

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Filed under book reports, book review, goofy thoughts, happiness, heroes, old books, sharing, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Things You Probably Ought to Know about Mickey

As Mickey’s go, the one who is writing this is a moderately interesting example of the breed.  Still, there are things you probably ought to be made aware of.  A sort of precautionary thing…

First of all, this particular Mickey is an Iowegian.  That means he comes from Iowa, the State where the tall corn grows.  It is a prime reason why his jokes are corny and his ears have been popped (oh, and he does actually have two, unlike the picture Paffooney where only one is showing).  His fur is not actually purple.  If anything now, it is mostly silver-gray.  But the Paffooney is a magical portrait, and purple is the color of magic.  He has a goofy, and sometimes fatal grin.  You may not be able to prove that he has ever actually grinned someone to death, but it is likely he could always dig somebody up.

Another irrefutable fact about this Mickey, unlike many many Mickeys, is that he used to actually be a public school teacher.  He taught the little buggers for thirty-one years, plus two years as a substitute teacher.  He did twenty-four of those years in middle school… twenty-three of those in one school in South Texas.  His mostly Hispanic students managed to teach him every bad word in Spanglish… err, Texican… err, Tex-Mex… or is it Taco Bell?  Anyway, they taught him every bad word except for the word for cooties… you know, piojos.  He learned that word from an old girl friend.

A despicable thing about him… (you know despicable, right?  It’s that word that Sylvester the cat always uses) is that he actually likes kids.  That’s just not normal for someone who teaches them.  Teachers are supposed to hate kids, aren’t they?  But he never did.  It is true that he yelled at them sometimes, but he never did that because he hated them.  He did that only for fun.  And he actually apologized to kids sometimes when they got into behavioral trouble, because he said it was the teacher’s fault if kids are bad, and, besides, the kids are so surprised by that, that they forget all about the behavior and can be flammoozled into acting good.

The last and most wicked thing you need to know about Mickey is that he cartoons up a storm sometimes.  He loves to draw everything that is wacky and weird.  He has more goofball colored pencil tricks than a Charles Shultz and a Dr. Seuss rolled together in a sticky lump with a George Herriman stuck on top in place of a cherry.  He steals ideas and techniques from other artists and steals jokes from comedians, undertakers, and random juvenile delinquents.  He also puts together lists of wacky oddball details that don’t quite fit together and weaves it into purple paisley prose (somewhere in this whole messy blog thing he has also defined purple paisley prose and how to make it… in case you were curious.)

So there you have it.  The Truth about Mickey.  The sordid, simpering, solitary facts about Mickey.  The straight poop.  (wait a minnit!  How did poop get there?  Not again!  I thought I had cured that!)

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Why School Should Be Cool

Cool School Blue

I was a school teacher for thirty-one years, and in spite of the immense amount of brain damage that builds up over time, especially as a middle-school teacher, I think I know what we’ve been doing wrong.

We need to take a look at an education system where things are working better than they are here.

Now, I know you probably didn’t click on the boring video about school.  Heck, you probably aren’t even reading this sentence.  But I can summarize it and put it in easy-to-understand words.  Finland does not have to educate as many poor and disadvantaged kids as this country does.  The video gives five ways that Finland does it better, but all of them boil down to the basic notion that the country is more homogeneous and uniformly middle-class than ours is.  Still, we can learn things from them.

The first of the five ways that Finland does it better is a difference in government.  While U.S. governmental safety-net programs blame people who need food stamps for being lazy (even though some of them work 40-hour work weeks in minimum-wage jobs), Finland gives a huge package to parents of everything they might need as soon as their child is born.  As long as the child is in school, the government does many things to support the family’s efforts to educate them.  Imagine what we could accomplish here if we invested some of the vast fortune we give to corporations in subsidies into educating poor black and Hispanic children instead.  Children have a hard time learning in school when they come to school hungry.  If we could only feed them better, the way the Fins do, we would revolutionize our classrooms.

The second point the video makes is the biggest suds-maker every time I get on my teacher’s soap box.  They don’t give kids homework and they only give them one standardized test when they leave high school.  I have recently covered this topic more thoroughly in a post in which I was able to ridicule Florida governor Rick “Skeletor” Scott.  (Boy, did I enjoy doing that.)  But I won’t go into all of that again here.

The third thing is respecting teachers.  In Finland they treat teachers with the kind of respect that they give to doctors and lawyers.  How cool is that?  In Texas, calling someone a teacher is an epithet.  If a teacher is liked or even loved by their students, administrators are encouraged to keep a closer eye on them to figure out what’s wrong.  Students are supposed to hate their teachers and sit all day filling out mind-numbing test-preparation worksheets.  Imagine what it could be like if teachers weren’t the scum of the earth.  They might actually have students convinced that learning goes on in their classrooms.

The fourth point is that Finland does not try to cram more and more memorized details into young brains so they can spit it all back out on a test.  They take students thoroughly into the subject of study, and at a slower, easier pace.  They dive deep into the river of learning instead of wade through the wide and shallow parts.  All questions get answered.  And by that, I mean, student questions, not teacher questions.  The learning is student-centered.

Finally, the video states that Finland simply has fewer social ills in their country to get in the way of good quality education.  But even though the work is harder in this country, the potential is really there to go far beyond what Finland is capable of.  We have a natural resource that is totally untapped in this nation.  We don’t develop the minds of a majority of our children in any meaningful way.  And I can tell you from having done it, you can teach a poor or disadvantaged child to think.  You can give them the tools for academic, economic, and personal success.  You can make them into valuable human beings.  But you should never forget, they are already precious beyond measure.  We just ignore and trash that inherent value.  So, the information is out there about how to do a better job of educating our children.  We need to follow through.

Here endeth the lesson.

 

 

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Filed under angry rant, commentary, education, humor, insight, teaching

Terry Pratchett, the Grand Wizard of Discworld

image borrowed from TVtropes.com

image borrowed from TVtropes.com

I firmly believe that I would never have succeeded as a teacher and never gotten my resolve wrapped around the whole nonsense package of being a published author if I hadn’t picked up a copy of Mort, the first Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett that I ever encountered.  I started reading the book as a veteran dungeon-master at D&D role-playing games and also as a novice teacher having a world of difficulty trying to swim up the waterfalls of Texas education fast enough to avoid the jagged rocks of failure at the bottom.  I was drinking ice tea when I started reading it.  More of that iced tea shot out my nose while reading and laughing than went down my gullet.  I almost put myself in the hospital with goofy guffaws over Death’s apprentice and his comic adventures on a flat world riding through space and time on the backs of four gigantic elephants standing on the back of a gigantic-er turtle swimming through the stars.  Now, I know you have no earthly idea what this paragraph even means, unless you read Terry Pratchett.  And believe me, if you don’t, you have to start.  If you don’t die laughing, you will have discovered what may well be the best humorist to ever put quill pen to scroll and write.  And if you do die laughing, well, there are worse ways to go, believe me.

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Discworld novels are fantasy-satire that make fun of Tolkien and Conan the Barbarian (written by Robert E. Howard, not the barbarian himself) and the whole world of elves and dwarves and heroes and dragons and such.  You don’t even have to love fantasy to like this stuff.  It skewers fantasy with spears of ridiculousness (a fourth level spell from the Dungeons of Comedic Magic for those fellow dungeon masters out there who obsessively keep track of such things).  The humor bleeds over into the realms of high finance, education, theater, English and American politics, and the world as we know it (but failed to see from this angle before… a stand-on-your-head-and-balance-over-a-pit-of-man-eating-goldfish sort of angle).

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Terry Pratchett’s many wonderful books helped me to love what is ugly, because ugly is funny, and if you love something funny for long enough, you understand that there is a place in the world even for goblins and trolls and ogres.  Believe me, that was a critical lesson for a teacher of seventh graders to learn.  I became quite fond of a number of twelve and thirteen year old goblins and trolls because I was able see through the funny parts of their inherent ugliness to the hidden beauty that lies within (yes, I know that sounds like I am still talking about yesterday’s post, but that’s because I am… I never stop blithering about that sort of blather when it comes to the value hidden inside kids).

a-hatful-of-sky

I have made it a personal goal to read every book ever written by Terry Pratchett.  And that goal is now within reach because even though he is an incredibly prolific writer, he has passed on within the last year.  He now only has one novel left that hasn’t reached bookstores.  Soon I will only need to read a dozen more of his books to finish his entire catalog of published works.  And I am confident I will learn more lessons about life and love and laughter by reading what is left, and re-reading some of the books in my treasured Terry Pratchett paperback collection.  Talk about your dog-eared tomes of magical mirth-making lore!  I know I will never be the writer he was.  But I can imitate and praise him and maybe extend the wonderful work that he did in life.  This word-wizard is definitely worth any amount of work to acquire and internalize.  Don’t take my convoluted word for it.  Try it yourself.

borrowed from artistsUK.com

borrowed from artistsUK.com

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Islands of Identity

Island Girl2z

Who am I?

Why do I do the things that I do?

No man is an island.  John Donne the English poet stated that.  And Ernest Hemingway quoted it… and wove it into his stories as a major theme… and proceeded to try to disprove it.  We need other people.  I married an island girl from the island of Luzon in the Philippines.  She may have actually needed me too, though she will never admit it.

Gilligans Island

When I was a young junior high school teacher in the early eighties, they called me Mr. Gilligan.  My classroom was known as Gilligan’s Island.  This came about because a goofball student in the very first class on the very first day said, “You look like Gilligan’s Island!”  By which he meant I reminded him of Bob Denver, the actor that played Gilligan.  But as he said it, he was actually accusing me of being an island.  And no man is an island.  Thank you, Fabian, you were sorta dumb, but I loved you for it.

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You see, being Gilligan on Gilligan’s Island was not a bad thing to be.  It was who I was as a teacher.  Nerdy, awkward, telling stories about when I was young, and my doofy friends like Skinny Mulligan.  Being a teacher gave me an identity.  And Gilligan was stranded on the Island with two beautiful single women, Mary Ann and Ginger.  Not a bad thing to be.  And I loved teaching and telling stories to kids who would later be the doofy students in new stories.

But we go through life searching for who we are and why we are here.  Now that I am retired, and no longer a teacher… who am I now?  We never really find the answer.  Answers change over time.  And so do I.

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Filed under artwork, being alone, feeling sorry for myself, finding love, humor, insight, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

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.)

wonderful teaching

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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Filed under autobiography, humor, photo paffoonies, teaching