My [redacted] Journey

A teacher's search for inner peace.


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That Time Again


September 14, 2017

Dear Readers,

Yes, it is time for me to begin again. I NEED TO WRITE TO STAY SANE! The sooner I learn that, the better. The following is a letter I wrote today. I thought I could start off with this. See you tomorrow!

Peace,

~v.

September 14, 2017

Good Morning Colleagues,

This is my Random Act of Kindness to all of you. I’d rather just call it being a kind person because seriously, when did being kind fall so out of favor that we actually had to give it a title? Next thing you know, kindness will have its own holiday! But, I digress…

To start off, please call me Vickie. I’ve noticed that teachers tend to call each other by their teacher moniker, which is proper of course. However, how would I address you were I to see you in public? Well, that won’t be a problem, because as soon as we see one of our colleagues in public who we really don’t know (nor want to know) we try and avert our eyes, as if we didn’t see each other. And if the gods are angry with us that day, and our eyes meet, we smile weakly and mumble something like, “Uh, hi, Ms. So-and-So,” and walk away, cursing the gods. Now, not all of us do that to one another, we only do that with the people we have put in our, “Never Want To Know That Colleague” category.  And let me tell you, I’m pretty sure I would win that popularity contest…”And coming in at number one in our Hit Parade, with 77 mentions, Ms. Kunzmann! Hold your applause, folks, remember, we don’t really want to know that colleague.”

I’m kidding, but only a little.

My parents taught me to never address someone by their first name unless invited to do so…so I don’t. But the reverse is also true, so please, call me Vickie.

A little bit about my background: I’m a Libra, I like long walks on the beach…gotcha! Kidding, I mean, I am a Libra, but I prefer the mountains. On a purely social level, I’ll tell you a little about myself. This is not some purging session in which I reveal I used to turn tricks and I once studied to become a nun (all true by the way..maybe). No, I just want you to know where I’m coming from in my life.

I’ve had five children, and any observant person would notice I used the past tense. My oldest daughter, Jessica, passed away when she was almost three years old, her twin brother, my son Joseph, is now almost 33 years old, married with one daughter, and living in Kuwait, doing “something” for our government. He is allowed to come home once a year, which means I didn’t meet my granddaughter until she was 2. And no, his wife is not Kuwaiti, she is American.

I also have one more son who is married with two sons, living in Phoenix, a daughter, Ana, married, pregnant (!) living in Florida (ahhhh!), and a daughter Emily who is married, one son and living in Seattle. I also have an additional 111 children this year that I love just as much!

Yes, I do love my students as I do my own children, because after all, they love me like my own children love me…and we treat each other just as mother and child. Now, some may disagree, but this works for me. Not only am I a good mother, I am a good teacher. There is no way my own children would listen to me unless they trusted me, it took a minute, but they finally got it. When they were children, they hadn’t the slightest clue what respect looked like, I had to show them and sometimes beat it into them (another joke). I had to teach them and prepare them and give them the tools to survive in the world on their own; no mama’s boy sleeping on my couch…ever! I hugged them when they needed it, and I hugged them even more when they didn’t. I was tough, firm and fair. “No, you can’t bring your boyfriend upstairs.” “Yes, I will sit down and talk to you about your problem.” “No, I will not do your homework for you.” “Yes, I will let you fail, but I will never let you fall.”

These also work with my students. My own children do not remember that it was I that taught them how use a fork, but I did. And my students will never remember that I taught them how to write a proficient paragraph, but I did that, too. But my children and my students remember how I made them feel. I can get so angry at them that I sometimes cuss (sorry Walt). I sometimes embarrass them in front of their friends. And when I am wrong, I apologize…and I am wrong a lot! I also don’t trust them at this age, that is why I verify…trust but verify.

I am also a rule-follower, mostly. So, I expect my students to be rule-followers, mostly. Look, I know they are not allowed to wear non-BCJH outerwear in class, but I keep my classroom unusually cold. I tell my young lady students that it is something they have to look forward to in the future. And when that time comes, I hope they remember me. So, I might let them break that rule once in a while. However, if another teacher asks them to comply, I will always side with the teacher…ALWAYS. Children should know their place. And they should never (at least in my world) be allowed to pit one adult against another.

Finally (huge sigh of relief for some of you, I’m sure), I treat my students as my own because children have a funny way of growing up. They become adults and they have their own families and they move away or at least into a different house! And I want them to feel confident enough in their skills to survive. Some of my “children” won’t go to college, so they need to learn how to survive in a different way. I teach them that, too.

But, ahhhhh, move away they do. My four living children and I have not all been together in the same place at the same time since 2009. Once the first one leaves, it goes pretty fast. It used to make me so sad that none of my children lives very close to me. And I was wallowing in self-pity one day as I spoke to my daughter Ana, “None of my children loves me enough to want to be near me! I’m all alone and you all had such a horrible mother that you couldn’t get away fast enough!” And I heard her roll her eyes at me, and she replied, “Mom, we’re just doing what you taught us to do, we’re going out and changing the world!” And she was right, I teach them all that they are going to go out and change the world.

I love them fiercely. But in no universe is a 52 year-old woman and a junior high student equal…never! As I tell my children, all 116 of them, “I’m not your friend, I’m not your buddy, and I’m not your pal. So you will address me as such!” But please, you may call me Vickie.

Peace.

 

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Saved ~ Part III


November 1, 2014

Dear Readers,

This begins the third installment of one of the most profound experiences of my life. Part I can be found here. Part II can be found here.

Injury Assessment

Arriving at the emergency room, my calm demeanor belied the hustle and bustle of the emergency room.  Whisked into a room, it was all hands on deck.  I was being jostled on all sides.  Nurses were moving me from the ambulance gurney to the ER bed, inserting IV lines, and generally trying to soothe what they suspected was a terrified accident victim.  The doctor (doctors?) was listening to my Paramedic Angel give an assessment of my injuries observed at the scene, at the same time issuing instructions to notify radiology that I needed a whole host of x-rays.

As near as I could tell, both Paramedic Angel and Dr. Diligent were both trying to rule out any internal injuries I may have sustained.  After all, I had complained of pain across the left side of my abdomen.  Actually, I had pain on most of the left side of my body.  The top of my left foot, my left ankle, the left side of my left leg, my left hand, my left wrist, everything left was in pain, except my head.  My head, though it had smacked a hard surface not once, not twice, but three times, was in no pain.  This was the fact on which I concentrated.  Meanwhile, a nurse was taking care to administer a pain killer/sedative into my IV.

After receiving Paramedic Angel’s report, Dr. Diligent took great pains to carefully and completely exam his accident victim – me.  “Okay, Victoria,” I heard a voice forewarn me, “we’re going to have to cut off your clothes.”  And the cutting commenced.  My pants were the first to be shredded.  “Those are Calvin Kleins,” my dumbfounded brain sobbed.

Now, I do not wish to make light of my accident in any way.  Having said that, I must be honest about the thoughts that were going through my head as the nurse was snip, snip, snipping away my clothes.  I must also be honest in my vanity.  I have never been much of a clothes horse, no, my clothes are much more practical, much more teacher-y.  My wardrobe is what most would call functional…until recently.  This past summer, I felt I owed it to myself to put a little more thought and, subsequently, a little more money into my choice of work clothes.  After enlisting my sister’s help (she really did all of the work), I had a wardrobe I loved.

I hardly had time to recover  from the loss of my beloved pants, when the nurse began cutting away my blouse.  “Okay, with the shirt,” I calmly thought.  And then finally, the coup de grace, “No!” cried my befuddled brain.  “Not my Victoria’s Secret!”  There were three victims that afternoon; me, Calvin Klein, and sadly, Victoria’s Secret.

A Break in the Action

I am going to wrap up today’s post, as I am having difficulty getting past this point.  It’s not that anything more tragic occurs and I hate to leave you dear Readers hanging.  But, my physical well-being and my mental well-being do not mesh.  I mean, I literally walked away from this accident…calmly.  I literally walked calmly away from this accident.  My mind is having a hard time accepting that.  I have always declared that I am blessed beyond belief.  I am highly blessed and Divinely favored.  Well, please excuse me while I go give thanks and see if I might be able to solicit God’s help in reconciling my physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

I will be back.  Peace, ~v.

 

 

 


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Tu Solo Tu


October 31, 2014

Dear Readers,

Writing the first two installments of my series, “Saved” has turned out to be both a blessing and a curse.  It has helped me work through some of the more painful moments of my accident.  Of course, it has also managed to help me re-live some of them, as well.  I’m taking a break for a day or two.  I do hope you enjoy my alternatives until I publish “Saved ~ III.”  For those who would like to catch up, here is “Saved ~ I” and here is “Saved ~ II.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I come from a musical family, music runs in our blood.  Creatively, we have artists that run the gamut from singers to songwriters to players of instruments.  And we are not pigeonholed into one genre or another.  Our tastes also encompass a broad spectrum.  We grew up listening to the likes of Ry Cooder, Dr. Hook, The Temptations, The Eagles, David Allen Coe, Vikki Carr, Alabama, The Oak Ridge Boys, and Linda Ronstadt.  My dad even had the soundtrack to Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke.  And those are just the artists who sang in English.

Included in my parents’ repertoire were a myriad of singers who sang in Spanish and for the life of me, I can remember not one.  Oh I remember the songs, just not the artists.  Well, let me re-phrase that, I recognize the music when I hear one of the songs from my childhood, but not much else.  I didn’t understand the lyrics, so it was difficult for me to remember the titles and the artists.  Except one.

One of my dad’s favorite artists was Linda Ronstadt.  And jut as my dad, her musical tastes contained both breadth and depth.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with Ms. Ronstadt, it might surprise you to know that she was born in Tucson, Arizona and she is of Mexican descent, on her father’s side.  These two innocuous details, coupled with the fact that her vocals span several octaves, had my dad hooked.  However, it wasn’t until she released her album Canciones de mi Padre in 1987 that my dad was truly over the moon.  It is from this album that I randomly chose a song for this week’s prompt:

Select a lyric from the first, random song you hear.  Use that lyric in a piece of writing of your choosing (fiction, non-fiction, poem, letter, etc.).  The Twist – work the name of the artist into your writing as well.

I hit the music app on my iPhone, and the song Tu Solo Tu began to play.  I downloaded the song when I was overseas in 2013.  The reason I downloaded the song was two-fold:  it reminded me of home, particularly of my dad, and I wanted to learn the lyrics so I could sing it for my dad.  My dad passed away in 2001, and he and I both knew that my musical abilities began and ended with pushing the ‘Play’ button on his 8 track in our blue Dodge van.  But I was determined to learn, and sing one Spanish song; it was the one thing on my bucket list I disclosed to no one.

So many things came together in a motel room in Al Mirfa in February of 2013, it was the perfect storm.  I was 7,000 miles from home, I was by myself, wearing a t-shirt with a poem about being Chicano that my brother had written, and I was watching Arabic television.  It was then that I began my first blog.  I had been listening to Tu Solo Tu over and over and over, trying to phonetically learn the lyrics.  I took a break to watch, of all things, a One Direction video.  I remarked out loud, “What a great world we live in.  Here I am in the Middle East, a Mexican chick from America, wearing a Chicano lit. t-shirt, singing a song in Spanish, and watching a video of an English-Irish pop band!  Ain’t life grand?”

After the video finished, I turned on the news for background noise as I began to write my first post for my first blog.  As the lyrics to Tu Solo Tu ran through my head, I was struck with the thought that I didn’t know if my dad would have approved of my going to the UAE to teach.  It was a nagging, all-consuming thought that kept looping through my brain.  It was just about to drive me crazy, when I turned to watch a story on the news of citizens protesting in Tunisia.  What I saw next floored me.

The news program was showing protestors gathered in groups and holding signs.  One sign caught my eye, so much so that I grabbed my phone and snapped a picture:  1554393_10201714006164327_5562529658264456655_n  The message is written in Arabic, but look at the first three letters: gaz. Dad’s name was Guadalupe Alejandro Zubia – gaz.  For me, it was the vindication I needed that I was where I should be.  And it came from the only person I needed to hear it from, my dad.

After the initial shock, I began singing as loudly as I could, serenading my dad.  Although the rest of the lyrics don’t quite fit, the title of the song was certainly apropos:  Tu Solo Tu  (You Only You).

Peace, ~v.


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Saved ~ Part II


October 30, 2014

Dear Readers,

Today marks the second installment in a series.  Part I can be found here.  Peace, ~v.

Dazed, Not Confused

With my eyes still closed and my glasses still perched intact atop the bridge of my nose, I set about removing myself from my restraint.  My shackle, formerly known as my seat belt, held me in bondage to the wreckage that was once my truck.  Within seconds, I whipped off the shoulder strap from around my neck, unbuckled the seat belt holding me hostage, and walked away from the crash, never even looking back.

In an otherwise parallel poetic universe, this would be the end to my story.  Poetic justice dictates that I walk away from the crash a bit dazed and confused and never turn back; dramatics begs to differ.  I had to turn back, I had to look at what should have been my resting place (see what I told you…dramatics).  Besides, although completely dazed, I was certainly not confused.

As I wandered a few feet from the wreckage, I paused and turned to face my would-be tomb.  As dramatic as that sounds, it was exactly what I was thinking at the time.  You see, I knew my body had been through a traumatic experience and I also knew that it wasn’t my well-constructed truck that had saved my life.  Okay, not exactly true.  Nevertheless, I was convinced that it was The Voice who had intervened to save my life.

As I stood staring at the remains, a tall gentleman approached me, cell phone in hand.

“Are you okay?” he asked.  “You look okay. We called the paramedics.”

“Did you see what happened and how many times I rolled?” I replied.

“I didn’t, but my wife did. Hey honey,” he shouted at an unseen woman, “How many times did she roll?”

I didn’t need to hear the response, I already knew the answer.

“She said five.”
“She said three,” we both answered in unison.

He was referring to what his wife had said. I was referring to what The Voice had told me.

The gentleman shook his head, “She said five.” I let it go, I was dazed, but not confused.

“Can you call my sister, please,” and I rattled off her number.

Assessing Damages

I stood almost stock still and waited for help to arrive. I had already done a quick but thorough assessment of my injuries. I had four superficial cuts on my right hand, my left hip was smarting from the seat belt restraining me during the free fall, as was my neck and the rest of my left side, especially my left wrist, and that was all…let me repeat,…and that was all.

I neglected to take a head count of each lookie-loo who happened upon the scene. I could just feel their vibes, and their vibes screamed in disbelief that anyone had survived such a mangled mess. My vibe screamed in disbelief as well, but it was a disbelief of a different nature:  I could not conjure up The Voice

I couldn’t peel my eyes away from my used-to-be truck.  No airbag had been deployed, no glass had been left intact, and there were no instructions forthcoming from The Voice.  Then as if on cue, “M’am, where do you hurt?”  It wasn’t The Voice, but it was a voice, the voice of another angel.

This particular angel came equipped with an oxygen mask and a stretcher.  “M’am, we’re gonna have to roll you onto this board…” and his voice trailed off.  Funny, I hadn’t heard the ambulance arrive; maybe I had sustained some sort of head injury that had incapacitated my hearing.  “Oh no!” I thought as I was loaded into the awaiting ambulance, “I can’t feel my head!  My head is numb!”

As we began to pull away from the scene of the accident, Paramedic Angel began asking me questions about my injuries.  When he was finished with his inquiries he sat down next to me, adjusted the oxygen mask that by then was resting on my right cheekbone and whispered almost reverently, “You just close your eyes now and relax, because you are the luckiest person in the world right now.”  He also uttered something to the driver, who began picking up speed and running his siren.

It wasn’t until I heard the siren wailing that I realized that my hearing was still intact.  It also dawned on me that Paramedic Angel must have instructed the driver to hurry it up on my account.  “How come you told him to go faster?” I mumbled through my oxygen mask.

“Your blood pressure is low and that bothers me.”

I chuckled , “You didn’t run the siren when you came to get me because you were afraid I was dead.  And now you’re running the siren because you’re afraid I’m dying.”  He nodded his head in the affirmative.  He looked so worried that I had to tell him, “I won’t die, I stayed awake.”

His response?  “You hit your head pretty hard; you may be in shock.”  I didn’t have the heart nor the courage to tell him that the Voice had told me that if I stayed awake I would live; I did, and I did.  I just wished The Voice would come back and tell me what was wrong with my head.

My head had been knocked around at 65 mph.  Surely it must be battered and bruised.  I had only to flashback to the contorted piece of metal that had once been my driver’s side door to know what the results of the CT scans of my head would read like.  I had no pain in my head, yet I knew I had just suffered a traumatic head injury.

As I arrived at the hospital, I prayed to God that He would allow me to feel the pain of my head injury so that I might better pinpoint the epicenter of the trauma and work toward recovering.  I was still praying when the ER doctor came to my bedside to give me the news.

To be continued. 


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Saved ~ Part I


October 28, 2014

Dear Readers,

The following is Part I in a series.  It’s all true.  Peace, ~v.

Preface

I have started to write the following post more than once in the past month or so, but I could never get past the first paragraph. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write this post, it’s just that every time I sit down to type it, my mind either goes blank or it whirls with questions whose answers I haven’t been able to receive through prayer. Either way, I end up sitting at my computer, staring off into space. Now however, it’s time.

Before I begin, I humbly ask my family, specifically my children and my mother, to forgive me for not telling them about my accident. It was, and still is so surreal that I have trouble believing it actually happened the way that it did.  Suffice it to say that mine was the only vehicle involved, and I was the only one hurt (but just a little). Also, and I suppose I should have mentioned this first, I am fine, really, really fine. Then again, that seems to be my problem.

Some Great Day

“If you can just stay awake, you’ll live,” said the voice, as my head slammed into the driver’s side door of my truck. Seconds before, I had been winding my way through the beautiful Cerbat Mountains, on my way home from an almost perfect day of school. Now, I was just another motorist involved in a highway accident, a victim, a statistic. How did I get here? And more importantly, why was I spared?

I have written and rewritten the above paragraph over and over again until I have it memorized. I can revise it no more. It is, as they say, what it is, and no amount of editing on my part is going to change that. Here’s the thing, I was in this stupid accident and I’m having difficulty writing about it, much less accepting it. The difficulty in writing is two-fold, really. I fractured my left wrist, my writing hand, so no journal writing. And typing with only my right hand is slow and tedious. As for the acceptance part, well, that one’s on its way.

My day had ended on such a high note. It was one of those rare days since becoming a teacher that I was going home without reflecting on what I could have done differently with my lesson so that more of my students would have been engaged. I didn’t have to reflect on the negatives of the lesson; all of my students had mostly been on task. They even seemed to have enjoyed the web quest I sent them on and creating power point presentations of their cyber-journey.

I must say, I was proud of my students at the end of that day. Collectively, they seemed to have conquered the maturity speed bump of behaving appropriately in the computer lab. I made a mental note to be sure and tell them how proud I was of them the next day. And with that, I locked up my classroom and started for home.

The Drive

Unburdened by the day’s events, I was more relaxed than usual. That’s not to say that I was fall-asleep-relaxed. No, I was just not as uptight as I usually am and I didn’t have a death grip on the steering wheel like I usually do. I have an hour’s ride home every day through the Cerbat Mountains and it usually takes me a good 20 minutes before I begin to loosen my grip and relax my shoulders. Any other day of the workweek, the beautiful scenery coupled with a soothing audio book is usually sufficient to bring me back to center.

As a creature of habit, I grabbed my phone, ready to peruse my digital library for a relaxing yet engaging audible to accompany me on my drive home. But before my nimble fingers had finished tapping out my super, secret pass code, I paused, I smiled, and I shook my head.

“Not today,” I said to no one in particular, unless you count Siri who was fast asleep, my having not unlocked my phone. I placed my phone in the middle console, secure in the fact that I would need no calming narrative to ease my stress; I had none. I happily eased out of the parking lot.

The next 20 minutes are difficult for me to put into words. All of my senses were heightened. I was aware of every bend in the road as I wound my way through town and up towards the mountains. At one point, it dawned on me that I had missed all of the bumps and potholes on the road without even trying. I also remember catching most, if not all green lights on my way out of town. I had a positive vibe within and without and all around me. I was happy and smiling and feeling…different.

Right before I hit the last light out of town, it dawned on me that perhaps I was feeling too prideful. Usually when I have a particularly good day, I credit myself first, my students second. That is a hard thing to admit, and my pride always goes before my fall (deservedly so, I might add). This particular day, it wasn’t like that. I was proud of my students and wasn’t even thinking that I had anything to do with their reaching a maturity milestone.

I was feeling so good that I reached for my phone with the intent of listening to some music that matched my mood. This time, my fingers didn’t even touch the screen before my hand was putting the phone back into its cradle. My mind wanted to soak up this good feeling without interference.

Rolling Over

I was doing the speed limit, 65 mph, and I was about seven miles into the uphill mountain road. Although I can recall with pristine clarity everything that occurred as my truck began to roll, I cannot explain what happened in the moments before I lost control of the truck.
I felt the truck begin to roll toward the driver’s side, only two wheels on the road. I saw a car in front of me and knew I was going to roll right into its rear end. I closed my eyes, let go of the steering wheel and went completely limp. That’s when I heard the voice.

“If you can just stay awake, you’ll live,” said the voice, as my head slammed into the driver’s side door. This was the first roll. As I rolled upside down, it dawned on me that I was in no pain. “I’m dead,” I thought as I felt the truck roll upright.

“You won’t die if you stay awake,” said the voice. This time I felt the left side of my body slam into the ground. This was the second roll. Even though my body had struck the ground, I was still belted into the cab of the truck and I was about to turn upside down, again. I could feel the roof of the cab crushing down on me. “How come my head doesn’t hurt?” I wondered. My body felt the impact each time the truck rolled over. But I couldn’t feel the pain.

As the truck began to right itself for the second time, I knew we had too much momentum to stop. “One more,” said the voice. This was the third and final roll. I could feel that my glasses had remained on my face and I was struck with the oddest of thoughts, “My head doesn’t hurt because I’m still wearing my glasses,” (I’m still trying to figure that one out). It was then that the truck pounded to a stop, right side up. “Stay awake,” spoke the voice one last time, and then it disappeared.

The truck had stopped with such force, and my body had been moving with such tremendous momentum that my legs were flung ragdoll-like out of the cab. The mangled driver’s side door having worn out its usefulness, offered no more protection. My hips were safely wedged between the lap portion of the seat belt and the desert floor as I half sat, half dangled from the front seat. The only thing stopping me from lying in repose was the seat belt shoulder strap wrapped around my neck like a noose.

Within seconds, I whipped off the shoulder strap from around my neck, unbuckled the seat belt holding me hostage, and walked away from the crash.

To be continued.


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August 22, 2014

Dear Readers,

Teachers are forever assessing and reassessing.  We assess our students’ skills, our lesson plans, and at times, even our own effectiveness.  We do this on a daily basis and mostly while on auto pilot (after years of practice, it’s second nature to us).  We even have a phrase for this assessing and re-assessing:  modify and adjust.

As a teacher, I must modify my plans so as to teach to the majority of my students.  Then, I further adjust if not everyone in class “gets” the concept I am teaching.  My days are in a constant state of flux.  However, it seems I rarely expend that kind of energy in assessing my life.  And certainly I do not modify and adjust anything in my world.  It’s kind of like what I don’t know can’t hurt me.  Too bad after all these years, I still haven’t learned that the opposite is true.

After teaching for the past 14 years, I can honestly say that this school year, 2014-2015, has been the best start for me in recent memory.  I believe that is is because of my great start, that I have failed to acknowledge the little unsettled feeling that keeps tap, tapping on my soul.  Given that I write to get my feelings out, I went through my past blog posts to see if I had written anything in the past year that would indicate that I was aware of this twinge of something I can’t quite put my finger on.  Boy! was I ever surprised.  A year ago August 18, I wrote a post entitled “My Dichotomy”.  It remains the same, one year and four days later, it remains the same.

I have been teaching at my new school now for a little over a year, and I seem to be enjoying it.  There were certain realities present in my previous two teaching jobs that have thankfully, been removed.  The last two places I taught include a boys’ prison in the middle of the Sonoran Desert and a girls’ school in the middle of the Arabian Desert.  Both environments were equally restrictive, yet equally rewarding.  On the surface, they appeared to be polar opposites.  However, upon closer inspection, I realized that the two couldn’t be more alike.

Although I have always dreamed of becoming a high school teacher, the thought of teaching boys behind bars never once crossed my mind, until it did.  And then, when it did, I was only too willing to go along.  Well, most of me was willing to go along.  And the most of me that was willing to go along, was always waging war with the some of me that was not.

Some of me usually whispered through clenched teeth, “Are you kidding me?!  Get us out of here!  It’s a prison for Christ’s sake!”

To which most of me would usually respond, “But, we’re making a difference.”

And we were; making a difference, that is.

By the same token, teaching in the Middle East had never crossed my mind either.  As a matter of fact, some of me and most of me had the same conversation as when I was at my previous job.

Some of me would say, “Are you kidding me?!  Get us out of here!  It’s the Middle East for Christ’s sake!”

To which most of me would usually respond, “But, we’re making a difference.”

And we were; making a difference, that is.

Here’s the laundry list of similarities:

Both schools are located in the middle of a desert – At least I didn’t have to get used to the weather!

Both required me to dress ultra-conservatively – Not a bad thing, I just prefer to choose my own dress.

Both were far away from me, culturally – I couldn’t understand the gang mentality that was prevalent in the boys’ prison, nor could I relate to the overwhelming patriarchal society prevalent in the Middle East.

Students at both schools called me something other than Ms. Kunzmann – the girls in the Middle East called me Miss Victoria because my last name was too difficult for them to pronounce, and  the boys in the “pen” called me Fucking Bitch because, well, they could.

Students at both schools thought I couldn’t teach them anything – Students at both schools were wrong.  I was able to teach the boys a modicum of English so that many of my students earned their GED while locked up.  Additionally, I was able to teach the girls that they could affect change in the world, and I am happy to report that they have graduated high school and they are changing the world..

Students at both schools had very limited freedoms – Understandably so for the boys, they relinquished their rights once they were adjudicated (sentenced).  However, the girls’ rights were stripped from them once they were born.

Students at both schools saw me as an anomaly.  Subsequently, students from both schools really, really, really wanted to know the real me.

Students at both schools needed all of me.  Subsequently, teaching at both schools was mentally taxing.

Now however, I am back where I started.  I am teaching at a traditional public school.  The students are traditional public school students.  I am a traditional public school teacher and I seem to be enjoying it.  Right?  Right.  So then tell me, dear Readers, why do I feel like something is missing?  Peace, ~v.


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Never Let Them Push You Around


August 16, 2014

Dear Readers,

“I will do everything I can to protect you.  But, you’re gonna have to learn how to protect yourself.  And if it doesn’t stop, you will have to decide what you want to do.”

I heard this twice in the past two weeks.  The first time, my principal was talking to me, the second time, I was talking to a student.

A little over a week ago, I published what I was certain would be my last post on this blog.  I had encountered a breach in security, and I was convinced I would have to go into hiding as far as the world wide web was concerned.  It was so heartbreaking for me, as I have poured my soul into this blog.  However, at the time, I saw no other choice, so yes, I was ready to throw in the towel.  Good thing the voice in the back of my head wouldn’t leave me alone.

For the first seven days of my self-imposed exile, I toyed with the idea of created a new blog and writing under a pseudonym.  In fact, I had already created the web site and had finished writing my first blog post.  I just couldn’t bring myself to hit the “Publish” button.

The words of my principal kept ringing in my ears, “You’re gonna have to learn how to protect yourself.”  Yeah, yeah, I know, but wouldn’t it be easier if I just started over?  Of course it would be, and I was almost going to, until one of my students needed me to listen to her.

Thursday morning, Sara (not her real name), wanted to show me what she was writing in her journal.  Without breaking her confidence, I can tell you that she was suffering from something similar to what I had been experiencing.  My initial reaction was sadness.  How some people can get such joy from others’ pain is beyond me.  And then I got angry!

It was then that I heard the same words coming out of my mouth that I had heard a week earlier, “I will do everything I can to protect you.  But, you’re gonna have to learn how to protect yourself.  And if it doesn’t stop, you will have to decide what you want to do.”  I continued, “Don’t let the bullies win.  If you don’t stand up for yourself now, you will most certainly regret it later.  I should know, the same thing happened to me when I was about your age.”

Well, the same thing was happening to me at that very moment, I just hadn’t realized it yet.  When it did finally hit me how similar our situations were, I cringed.  Who was I to be giving someone the same advice I had all but ignored?  Two days earlier, I had wanted to roll over and play dead or at the very least, hide behind a fake name.  Yet, I was telling Sara to stand up for herself.  Where was my fighting spirit?  Had I really given in to a…a…a cyber-bully?!  Who was this person?  And what had she done with Victoria?

Suffice it to say dear Readers, Victoria is back, I am back.  And I am fighting to keep my private life private, well, as private as one can be in this day and age.  I am standing up to the bullies and I won’t let them win, or at the very least, I’m going down swinging.  I will keep a close eye on Sara and let you know how her situation develops.  The adults in her life are wonderful and they will protect and guide her.  As for me, I would like to tell you dear Readers, that I had an epiphany right there and then as I was talking to Sara.  However, that was not the case.  It took a bit of Divine intervention.

Friday morning, and the last thing I want to do is to sit through an assembly, plopped down in the middle of a gaggle of prepubescent boys and girls.  Especially now that I am at that certain age in a woman’s life where sweat and facial hair are no longer just for the men in my life.  But, sit I will, and sit I do.  And the hand of God reaches down and grabs my spirit and says, “Pay attention, Vickie.  You are about to be schooled.”

Yesterday’s assembly was all about how to keep yourself and your loved ones safe on social media sites and safe from cyber-bullies.  Really?  Really.  I paid close attention.

I’m reminded of a joke I heard years ago.  A man I’ll call Doc is caught in a thunderstorm that leads to flooding.  The flood waters rise so high that Doc seeks refuge o top of his roof.  He prays for God to help him survive.  About then, a man in a rowboat happens upon Doc and asks him if he needs any help.  Doc answers, “No thank you.  I prayed to the Lord and He will help me out of this mess.”

Two more times a boat happens by and two more times Doc refuses any help.  Unfortunately, Doc passes away and comes face to face with his Maker.  Doc is beside himself as he asks God, “Lord, why didn’t You save me?  Didn’t You hear my prayers?”

The Lord says, “Yes Doc, I heard your prayers.  But didn’t you see the three boats I sent?”

The Lord helps those that help themselves.  Peace, ~v.