To Sail or Walk

Summer is drawing near, bringing with it Floridian vacations with family, cookouts amid 90 degree afternoons, and an opportunity for a little soul-searching.  I’m not sure how other teachers begin their summer.  Alcohol and long morning naps surely are incorporated in some way.  My Aunt Sue often visit us in June and July when we were kids, before she retired after nearly thirty-years teaching science in Arkansas.  She would bring large plastic bins — the size of pound-cakes — filled with a powerful concoction of alcohol and fruit-juice for which my mom would ceremoniously clear a place in the family freezer to harden overnight.  The next day the two of them, Mom and Aunt Sue, would extract ice cream scoops and dig out the slushie mixture with the same care and joy as a miner unearthing a golden cache.   They’d sit out by the pool and while away the day until they’d be too exhausted or drunk to move.

“My summer has begun!” Aunt Sue would shout.  “No kids.  No grading.  This is the life!”

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A Student of Philosophy

Typing.  Typing.  Typing.  Typing.   Trying to drum up some creative new posts for this blog.  Something interesting and original.

What to say, what to write, I ask myself.   Gaming?  My Hunter just got to Light Level 400 in . . .

You did say original, right? Cynical Me interjects.  And with the countless millions Twitching and podcasting while posting actual gameplay, who would actually read ‘The Adventures of Murph on Digital Mars?’

Sardonic but on point.  Okay, so no games.  What about day-to-day?  Should I start complaining about work? 

Yeeaah, sure.  People would love to read about grading Scantrons and the conservation of mass, I reply my inner voice practically dripping with venom.  Everything  you do is either boring or depressingly boring.  Reading is for escape. And nobody wants to read about school life unless you can guarantee postal owls and magic wands.

You’re not leaving me many choices here.  I work so I can buy games.  I play games to decompress from work.  It’s a never-ending cycle of co-dependence or simply poor life choices, I’m not sure which.  Continue reading

Adventure Time: Kings Dominion

Honestly, this next post was devolving into a tirade about parents and report cards until I realized that its summer and frankly I just don’t want to go there.  Everything is electronic and online nowadays so parents and students can track the student’s progress weeks before they receive their report cards by mail.  Not all parents are comfortable with the program or forgo checking until June.  As such, I’m still receiving emails from parents asking how their daughter received this grade instead of that grade in this subject.  Some even request meetings, which can erode into the parent venting their frustration at the teacher.  I received one such email on Tuesday, and dread crept a little into my heart.  Conferences like these are part of the job, sure, but once summer commences, even one additional second worrying about grades or fretting over angry parents becomes an intrusion, like a car alarm in the middle of the night.

In order to recall my missing mojo, Kevin, Bree and I decided that yesterday we would have an adventure.  Thus, the next day, we drove to Northern Virginia to spend the day at Kings Dominion, one of Virginia’s premier theme parks and roller coaster factory.  Most theme parks choose two paths when attempting to draw in summer crowds.  The first involves creating a ‘world’ or an ‘adventure.’  Disney does this rather well, creating a traditional thrill ride but attaching a story or theme to heighten the emotional experience.  Hollywood Studios’ Twighlight Zone Tower of Terror is a good example.  By linking the idea of the Twighlight Zone and ghosts to a simple freefall ride, you create suspense as guests become part of the story.  They relish the thrill, and as such buy more T-shirts.

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First World Problems or Summer Vacation with No Beach

First World Problems or Summer Vacation with No Beach

True adventurers have never been plentiful. They who are set down in
print as such have been mostly business men with newly invented
methods. They have been out after the things they wanted–golden
fleeces, holy grails, lady loves, treasure, crowns and fame. The
true adventurer goes forth aimless and uncalculating to meet and
greet unknown fate. A fine example was the Prodigal Son–when he
started back home. — O. Henry, “The Green Door.”

Jumping into the car on the last day of school terrifies me.  For teachers, summer vacation can prove a daunting enterprise particularly if you happen to be single.  “Balderdash!” you may shout in a Victorian accent.  “I have a 9 to 5 job throughout the entire year.  You teachers have it lucky what with this summer vacation nonsense.  Pip pip cheerio.  Fish and chips.”

Well, let’s field that common misconception first.  Imagine you have trained your entire life as a scientist or a writer.  After graduating with your Masters degree, you find jobs in short supply due to . . . let us say because of a ‘recession.’  You take a job as a teacher in a high school, which slowly consumes your entire life.  You teach all day, and on nights and weekends, you plan new lessons, create tests or grade grade grade until your fingertips are permantly stained red with misplaced commas and imbalanced chemical equations.  This is your life.  These kids, their needs and their dreams, become your life.  Tunnel-vision within a textbook.

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Off Duty

LoyolaAs a student, it always amused me to stumble upon my teachers outside the classroom: at the mall, in the movie theater, or even on the school parking lot.  Somehow it seemed strange to discover that our educators had lives and families outside the school property, as if they had apartments in the teacher lounge or — more abstractly — ceased to exist entirely without their class.  I would imagine Mrs. Willis and Mr. Phebus melting from the walls at the ringing of the bells, reforming flesh from discarded glitter glue and construction paper like a Terminator villain armed with copious lesson plans and graded algebra tests.

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The 9th Level

God, I hate meetings.  Somewhere in the pits of Hell lies an oversized board room for the world’s biggest assholes arguing for eternity over what to have for lunch or who gets the check.  Honestly, I think that sums up most people’s vision of Hell actually.

Today in school I sat in on our school’s DAC (Dance-Activities Council) and we spent twenty minutes discussing whether the girls could wear goofy socks during Spirit week.  Twenty minutes.  This is the hazard of working at a girl school: over-thinking pointless details and fashion accesories.  It’s like watching CSPAN and losing the remote.

I swear the council head, an older woman dressed in perennial purple and drowned — perhaps to complete the metaphor — in lavender perfume, was fishing for a problem with this particular issue, constantly asking the vice principal: “Do you have any issues with this?  Are you sure?  Because you know . . . some teachers might . . . have a problem with the socks if they have bells on them.”

Socks.  With.  Bells.

God. Help. Me.

The End of a Beginning

The tassel hung from my cap like a fly trap in my grandfather’s barn.  Every breath dislocated the strings clinging to my ears, eyes, and nostrils and scattering the pieces into another equally obnoxious location.  It was like being hugged by a miniature octopus in heat: annoying and mildly disturbing.  The rest of the academic staff appeared nonplussed by the attire.  We marched into the bowels of the cathedral between rows of parents and relatives wielding telescopic cameras and palm-sized smart phones.  Within a second the whole procession would be circulating around the web, complete with tags of the students favorite (and most hated) teachers, so I tried to appear as dignified as possible, suppressing the urge to hurl both cap and gown in the air and  blast skeet-style with a shotgun — or not owning a gun, hit it really really hard with my car keys.  Pew.  Pew.

We approached the altar of the cathedral and bowed, then the procession turned to the side and filtered into our seats adjacent to a small electric organ.  Once parked in our pews, we turned to smile on a crowd of white gowned seniors, eager and excited for the evening parties, college and summer vacation.   My many-fingered yarned beast choose the moment to slap me in the face repeatedly.

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