My [redacted] Journey

A teacher's search for inner peace.


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Blurred Lines


May 17, 2015

Dear Readers,

Today’s post comes with a “Warning!  Due to the strong nature of today’s post, some readers may be offended.  I apologize in advance.”

Parents who blur the line between parent and child are doing a great disservice to society at large.  Unsure of what I am talking about?  Take a look at the following exchange between a parent and a child.  The mom is on the left, while

blurher 12 year-old daughter is the one on the right.  Before you ask, neither the mom nor the daughter are African American.  And, before you ask again, I know because I swiped this from one of the social media sites in which I belong.  This is a true exchange.

I could enumerate any number of social missteps this mother is creating in treating her 12 year-old daughter as a friend; but, I won’t.

I could also attempt to explain why this nonsense destroys the relationship between teacher and student when allowed to seep into our schools at such an alarming rate; but, I won’t.

What I will do, is shake my head and bottom-line it for you, dear Readers.  When you treat your 12 year-old daughter like a friend, don’t be surprised when she starts treating you like you are hers.  Would you like to know how middle school girls treat their friends?  They yell at them to get their attention; they slap, pinch, and/or push them; they call them names (worse than this exchange); they make fun of them; they talk about them behind their backs; and they ignore most of what their friends say, unless it has to do with that cute boy who sits in front of them in math class.

Bottom line here?  12 year-old girls treat their friends with no respect and little to no loyalty.

After seeing this post, I understand why my 7th grade students cannot comprehend why I, a 50 year-old teacher, am allowed to have my cell phone in class, but they are not.  “Ms. Kunzmann, how come teachers are allowed to have their cell phones during class, but the students can’t?”  Here was my response:

“You and me, we’re not equal, not even close.  I have earned the right to better and more privileges by virtue of my age.  Your mom may treat you as her equal.  But, you and me, we ain’t equal, not even on the same plane.  In no such reality or alternate universe would a 12 year-old child and 50 year-old, grown adult teacher be equal insofar as possession of a cell phone is concerned.  And not only do I firmly believe that I have earned the right, I am disciplined enough to at least turn my phone’s ringer off so as to stop it from going off during class.  You, however, are not even disciplined enough to use proper English when addressing your own mother!”

“What?  Wait, what?”

And so on.  They may never get it.

The unintended consequences of parents treating their tween children as friends, is that the lines get blurred.  And that’s an awfully scary place to be…just ask Miley and Robin ;-)  Peace, ~v.


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Union Strong


May 16, 2015

Dear Readers,

Dad was a union plumber from 1964 until his death in 2001.  Dad believed in the brotherhood.  The values Dad instilled in his children are the values he honored as a member of UA Local 469 Plumbers and Pipefitters.  These same values I have passed on to my children and my siblings have passed on to theirs.  And even though the state of unions in America have taken a hit, the tradition Dad cultivated and handed down, continues to this day.

I’m not about to debate the merits of belonging to a union.  However, I think it’s time to give credit where credit is due.  I cannot speak for all unions nor all union members; I wouldn’t want to.  However, I can speak from experience.

These are the values with which Dad instilled in me.  These are also time-honored union values, American values:

• LOYALTY Dad was one of those rare individuals who walked the walk.  In today’s ‘Keep it real” society, loyalty is a rare commodity.  Too few people embrace this old-fashioned value.  However, everything old is new again, right?  Loyalty is a man sticking to his word.  Loyalty is paying homage to those who came before you.  Loyalty is also paving the way for those who come after.  Loyalty is a lifelong commitment, it’s a 40 year marriage, it’s a 35 year stewardship.  Loyalty is dancin’ with the one that brung ya.  
• FAIR PLAY If the balance is tipped in favor of one over another, chaos ensues.  This applies to things great and small:  employer/employee, men/women, dogs/cats.  Americans love to root for the underdog.  Why?  Because of our sense of fair play.  In today’ssteroid-induced, get ahead at all costs world, fair play is due for a comeback.
• DECENCY, HONESTY, CHARACTER If you only live once, these three values should be included on everyone’s checklist.  Unfortunately, YOLO has come to define a generation of decadent, dishonest persons of suspect character.  Today’s youth would do well to remember what Clarence Darrow once said, “[Unions] have done more for decency, for honesty, for education, for the betterment of the race, for the developing of character in men, than any other association of men.”  Agreed.

Although some may not agree, I know I am in the company of men and women I both respect and admire.  This short list not only includes my dad, it also contains my brother Alex and my brother Daniel.  Though my dad is no longer active, Alex and Daniel have continued in the union tradition.  The above values epitomize who they are and what they bring to a society bereft of values of days past.

Readers, this post is in honor of all the union men and women keeping with tradition and time-honored values.  Specifically, this post is to honor my brothers, Alex and Daniel, whose lives and families have been blessed and, dare I say, cursed to hold such high values.  Alex, Daniel and their families are about to embark on a life changing journey; from Arizona to New York.  Work is scarce in Arizona and so are most unions.   However, loyalty and the need to provide for their families trump familiarity.  I love you both and I wish you and your familieshappiness.  I am proud of you, Alex.  I am proud of you, Daniel.             

Unions:  Rank has its privliges.  Peace, ~v.

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If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say


May 15, 2015

Dear Readers,

I had nothing nice to write these past five months, so I kept it to myself.  The world has enough unkind words karmically seeking counterparts.  I wanted to balance the not nice words with some nice.  And this post is filled with enough nice words to fill an entire classroom of 7th grade students. 

My first, full year teaching 7th grade language arts is drawing to a close and I want to acknowledge one of my classes.  I have to admit that I have spent the better part of the school year complaining to my sister about this student or that student.  I thought it might be refreshing if she, and you, dear Readers, were to hear about the good students, not just the bad and the…well, you know the rest.  

I credit my last period class for creating such a good vibe prior to my life changing accident last year, that I wanted to, no, I had to come back to teach.  Believe me, I was periously close to never teaching again.  However, my last hour class was the perfect storm.  These are the students who reminded me why I teach.  

I would like to introduce you to Az (sorry Az, didn’t feel comfortable using your real name)    This young man has got the world by the tail and he is going places.  He is a leader among his peers and I am honored to have been his teacher.

Next is his sometime sidekick, Cj.  You will find Cj among the ballers.  He is smart and athletic and one of the most dedicated I’ve seen come through here.

My trusty first assistant Mg is as adorable as the day is long.  She is a hella good creative writer and I look for her to publish some of her fiction in the future.  

Mg’s first assistant is Bi.  Well, not really an assistant, but they are thick as thieves.  Bi is almost as smart as she thinks she is (jk, Bi, you know I love you).  I admire Bi’s willingness to ask questions, even though her peers may poke fun at her.  She is the one I pick to most likely go to a top university.

Jr was my second semester assistant.  I wasn’t sure if his, um,bathroom habit was for real, or just a ploy to get out of my class.  Maybe I made him nervous.  Nevertheless, he holds a very special place in my heart because he was never embarrassed to ask me to sit with him at lunch.  Kv was also at that same lunch table.  Although, Kv didn’t spend as much time at our (listen to me, “our”) lunch table as he should have.  Let’s just say that detention sometimes includes lunch.

Now for my silent but deadly crew: Ax, Le, Mo, and Yz.  “Still waters run deep,” comes to mind when I think of these four students.  Ax is one of the bitchingest (is that a word?) artists I have seen at such a young age.  Too bad I never warranted a drawing (LoL).  Ax draws because he has to draw.  For him, drawing is life.  He is art.  Le is too sweet for his own good at times.  I fear that someday, somewhere, some you-know-what will break his heart and I will have to go find her.  Seriously though, Le has a heart as big as anyone I know.  

Mo. is my kindred spirit.  He is like me, an outsider, not wanting to go in, but not wanting to stay on the fringe.  I pray that he finds the peace he is seeking.  Hell, I pray I find the peace I am seeking.

Yz could stand to have a bit more confidence.  She is smarter than she gives herself credit for.  The same is true for Gi.  These two young ladies are just the two to lead the next generation of strong, smart, beautiful Latina women.

Now we come to one of the beauties: Jo.  Jo too often sells herself short (no pun intended).  Yes, she is short, but, she doesn’t see the beauty that I see.  The quality that Jo has that I most admire is her loyalty.  I would love to have such a friend.

Ar is one of the cutest, most energetic young ladies in the school.  She is a lady with a bit of a rebellious streak.  She hardly lets it slip, but it gives her an edge.  I would love to see her roller-skate!

Tl warms my heart because he will always be a kid inside.  On his birthday, he came to class wearing an Olaf backpack!  For a 7th grade student to walk into class with this backpack was, to me, the sweetest thing I could have seen.  I hope he always keeps his little boy outlook on life.  

Of all these students, I admire Er the most.  I can never understand nor imagine speaking two languages.  Er can.  In fact, Er can speak, read and write in English better than most native English speakers.  He may be quiet, but I predict that he will make a great big roar when he is released into the real world.

De is one of the quirkiest white-boys ever.  However, as he tells me, “But, I’m black on the inside!”  Great kid with a great smile.  I owe you a book, De; I hope you are around next year to receive it.

Finally, I will never forget Eb, Je, and Mg.  These three, assistant Mg, beautiful Eb, and funny Je are the epitome of why I came back to teach after my accident.  The day of my accident, these three were the perfect trio with the perfectly executed lesson.  Theirs were the three faces that went before my eyes shortly before I wound my way up the mountain stretch on my way to, well, you know.  Knowing there are students out there like these three made my coming back to teach worthwhile.  Three seemingly different students, from three different backgrounds, with different friends and interests came together that afternoon and opened themselves up to learning.

These are the reasons I teach, dear Readers; these are the reasons I teach.  Peace, ~v.


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My Favorite Muffin


May 12, 2015

Dear Readers,

Today is one of those days I have put on my “Some Day” calendar.  You know what I mean:  Some day I’ll lose those last 20 pounds.  Some day I’m going to go on a cruise.  Some day, some day, some day.  Well, some day I will be the mother of a college graduate has arrived.  My daughter graduates tonight from my alma mater, Arizona State University.  I would like to take this space and this opportunity to let her know how proud of her I am.

Ana,

Congratulations, college graduate!  How does it feel to meet another one of your goals?  I knew you would do it, you always do whatever you set your mind to, I admire that.  I also admire so much more that is you, it is hard to enumerate, but I will try.

I admire that you are stubborn; you stand your ground when you believe in something.

I admire the way you connect with little children; they flock around you because they know you love them.

I admire the way you took care of your sister when you lived in California; she always felt safe with you.

I admire the way you took care of your sister when you both had to change schools; she took it the hardest, but you made sure she felt safe.

I admire the way you stood up to me when you knew I had a problem; you made your decision and you never backed down.

I admire the way you live your life; no regrets, no excuses, no looking back.

I admire your loyalty, your beauty, your mind.  You have turned out to be a pretty amazing young woman.  Of course I know your faults, but today is not about that.  Today is about your achievements, and you should be proud of yourself…I know I am.

One last thing, you have to know how difficult it has been to write this post.  I must have started typing a hundred times.  Every time I started to typed, my eyes would begin to water.  Yes, I’m a baby and oftentimes too sensitive, but then again so are you (something else I admire).  However, the reason this has been so difficult to write is because I do not have the words to describe how proud of you I am.  I know I just said it, but it hardly seems enough.

I love you, Muffin.  I wish you nothing but the best.  Go and make the world a better place, I will always be here for you.

Love,

Our Mom

p.s. I admire how much you love your mom.  Peace, ~v.


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Mothers


May 9, 2015

Dear Readers,

Upon learning of the passing of my oldest daughter several lifetimes ago, a well-meaning, but insensitive soul asked me the following question:

“If all of your children die before you do, would you still be a mother?”

At the time, as a 25 year-old grieving mother, all I could manage was a weak smile and an even weaker, “Yes.”

Now, as a 50 year-old knowledgeable grandmother, all I care to say is, “Yes.”

I went through a period in my mid to late twenties thinking I would have to stop calling myself a mom if I were to outlive my children.  Jeez, the things I thought when I was half my age.  Here’s to wisdom with age.

And here’s to all mothers, no matter the ages!  A very special Happy Mother’s Day to my mom.  Mom, I love you and thank you.  Also, my daughters-in law.  MZ and CK, I love you and thank you and I am so proud of you.  Finally, to Mimi.  I love you and thank you and I am so proud of you and I cannot believe how so much more alike we are now;-)

Peace, ~v.


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The iGen


May 8, 2015

People try to put us d-down (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Just because we g-g-get around (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Yeah, I hope I die before I get old (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)  ~The Who

Dear Readers,

From the Greatest one to The Who, everybody likes talking about the current generation.  Is there a defining factor that distinguishes the current from the former?  What holds sway over today’s youth?  And what common thread weaves its way through the impressionable young minds of today’s generation?

“Who cares!” most of you may be muttering about now.  However, I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss, because what I have experienced first-hand of Generation Z aka the iGeneration, will leave you shaking your head.

By most accounts, Gen Z/iGen includes my current middle school students (born 2001 ~ 2003) and are purportedly the most technology-dependent generation.  Hence, the moniker iGeneration or, iGen.  Well, I propose a new name for today’s youth, and I propose that several of my fellow educators would agree.  I’m toying with either the Mean Generation or Generation Bully.  Here’s a look at why:

Cyber bullying is alive and well at the junior high school level.  A few of the students at school have tried their cyber hands at bullying me on-line.  And one of the students had never even been in one of my classes!

My students are nonplussed at flagrant violence for the sake of violence routine played out in front of them on a daily.  Stimulants include television, heck, any visual media, computer and/or video games, society at large, and even one another.  GenZ/iGen members have their video cams on speed-dial.  Videos shot by a 12 year old, at school, in class are likely to go viral, especially if the videos contain fight material.

Finally, today’s generation is mean; mean to adults, mean to society, mean to themselves, and mean to each other.  This school year, students have lodged formal complaints on me with accusations to include threatening to “hunt…down” one of my students (I did not) telling another student to “drop out of school” (I did not), and calling a 12 year-old girl a “b**ch, a slut, and a ‘ho” (I did not).  Each complainant stated I said such things in a classroom full of other students and each complainant had several other students to corroborate the lies.

Fortunately, I come from the school of CYA (cover your a$$) and had documented incident reports so that my principal and my vice-principal had no problem believing the students were manipulative, untruthful, and just plain mean.  Unfortunately, all the documentation in the world couldn’t help save me from my most recent run-in.  In short, several of my students vandalized one of the tables in my classroom.  They unscrewed the bolts attaching the legs to the table top and one afternoon, while teaching, I leaned on this particular table, the legs buckled, and me and the table came crashing to the ground.  Not quite two months ago, and I’m still suffering debilitating back spasms.  See, just plain mean.

Well, dear Readers, as I near the end of today’s post, it occurs to me that I might just be able to get behind that name iGen.  Some have suggested that the ‘i’ is open to interpretation.  Here’s mine:

  • impetuous Generation
  • indolent Generation
  • iconoclast Generation
  • (and my personal favorite) icarus Generation

Who knows, this may just well be the generation that flies too close to the sun.  Peace, ~v.


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Teach Your Children Well


May 7, 2015

Dear Readers,

In Phoenix, Arizona a few days ago, a substitute teacher was accused of assaulting a middle school student.  You can read the complete story and view the video right here, on Fox 10 Phoenix.  The Fox affiliate reports, “It happened in an 8th grade social studies class, a 13-year-old student and a substitute teacher were involved in a confrontation. The student said something to the teacher and appeared to push or bump him, that is when the teacher took him to the ground. Students recorded the incident on their cell phones.”

Whatever your opinion about the teacher, I will neither defend, nor persecute him; that is for people with much greater power than I to decide.  No, I want to discuss the actions of the student and his mother after the incident, when the parent spoke to the reporter.

The mother states, on-camera, “I don’t care what words come out of a child’s mouth, no one should ever put their hands on a child like that.”

And while some of you may agree, the student. while declining to go on camera, readily admitted that “he called the teacher a racial slur before the take down.”

As I viewed the video, I kept waiting for the mother to show even a little bit of shame that her son had shown such hate as to call a grown man the ‘N’ word.  Nope, nothing; not a trace of humiliation.  In fact, the words she uses to acknowledge that her son said anything wrong were, “I don’t care what words come out of a child’s mouth…”  Well, that’s just not good enough for me.  It wasn’t ‘a child’, it was her child.  I was waiting for any indication that she plans on holding her son responsible for his actions.  Even if just to say, “My son shouldn’t have said that.”

Next, the mother states, “He’s 13, and 13-year-old kids don’t make good decisions sometimes…”  Really?  It seems to me that when your child doesn’t make good decisions, he should suffer the consequences of his actions.  Otherwise, how will your son ever learn the difference between a good, versus a bad decision.  If the parent considers her son’s decision to call a six foot five black man a racial slur, and then try and then chest bump him, a bad decision, what are his consequences?  You see, if a thirteen year old makes a decision, and he suffers no consequences, he learns that he has just made a good decision.

Bad decisions equal consequences while good decisions equal no consequences.  My thought, this kid is gonna feel entitled to challenge adults and call names…wait, he already does.  So, tell me, Entitled Kid’s mother, had the teacher not put his hands on your child, what would you have done when the school called to tell you that your son was defiant, pushed up on his teacher, and called the teacher the ‘N’ word?  Would you have said, “Son, your teacher is an adult, and adults don’t make good decisions sometimes, but what you said to your teacher is hateful.  It’s hateful and wrong.  Now I expect you to apologize at once.  Apologize, because I’m not raising children who hate.”

Well, would you have said something like that if the teacher never laid a hand on your son.  I would like to think, that given that scenario, you would, in fact admonish your child.  Fair enough?  Fair enough.  Now, you should still admonish your son.  What your son said was vile and hateful and can only bring destruction, not peace.  Just because the teacher pushed back, it does not negate the fact that your son was wrong.  Your son was wrong, wrong, wrong, and you should tell him.  Then, and only then, will you be able to say that you have taught your children well.  Peace, ~v.

 

 

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