My [redacted] Journey

A teacher's search for inner peace.


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Who’s to Blame?


December 24, 2016

Dear Readers,

A friend of mine posted the following video to his newsfeed:

And although I find the song both accurate and funny, I’d like to direct you, dear Readers, to the (perhaps) source of such nonsense:

https://vakunzmann.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/blurred-lines/

Perhaps this might explain a lot.

Peace, ~v.


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My Kids vs. Bebe’s Kids


April 24, 2016

Dear Readers,

At the end of every school year I’ve been teaching, I’ve run into the same problem: my kids vs. bebe’s kids.  I think a little background is in order before I continue my post.

Bebe’s Kids (pronounced bay-bay) was a 1992 movie based on a stand-up routine by the late American comedian, Robin Harris.  Bebe’s kids, the expression, has worked its way into the vernacular of urban America.  Bebe’s kids is a term used to describe young children who are rowdy and/or misbehaving, who seemingly have no home training.  Used in a sentence:  The students hurling spit wads in the hallway are bebe’s kids.

Lest you get the wrong idea, bebe’s kids are not delinquents, they are not the young juveniles committing crimes.  They are also not the well-mannered, polite students that most parents believe their children to be.  No, bebe’s kids are somewhere in-between.  Bebe’s kids are middle-school students.

At the start of every school year, I spend a great deal of time turning 100 or so bebe’s kids, into my kids.  Bebe’s kids put their feet up on classroom chairs and desks, and they hardly ever say “Please,” or “Thank you,”, unless it’s to their advantage.  Bebe’s kids almost always answer, “Yeah?”, or the always annoying, “What?” when addressing adults.  And they pick their nose, they burp, they fart, and they sneeze loudly in public.  Bebe’s kids have a hard time understanding why 12 year-olds do not have the same privileges as their teachers, “That’s not fair!  How come I can’t _________ (fill in the blank).”

Nine months later and some of my kids still have trouble keeping their hands and feet to themselves.  To be honest, I get lax at times and can be seen propping my feet up on my desk…but mostly not in front of my students.  Most of my kids remember to say, “Please,” and “Thank you,” and are not nearly as rude as they were nine months ago.  Most, not all, but most, have stopped picking their noses in class, and I only occasionally hear one of my kids burp and/or fart during class.  Bodily noises ceased being funny for most of my kids on about the second month we were together; they were never funny to me.

As for my kids whining about how life is unfair and they should have the same privileges as I have at school, well, let’s just say they more or less suck it up during class.  Oh, most still think they are equal to me.  They are just better at hiding their entitlement while in my presence.  For the most part, my kids have begun to show signs of maturing.  Of course, it’s what I expect from them.  That’s not to say there are still a few bumps in the classroom.  The following was a true exchange:

“Why are you late?” I ask one of my kids as she hurries through the door, long after the tardy bell has rung.

“Whaaat?”

“Oh, this is going to be good,” I muse to myself.  “Why are you late?” I repeat.

“Oh, because I was walking over here and when I got right around the corner, I was with my friend, So-and-so, and she saw me, do you want me to go get her?  And I was right over there and I was coming to class and you guys saw me right?  And I knew the bell was going to ring, and the bell rang, and I was walking over here, and…I fell.”

True exchange, dear Readers, she fell.  Of course I wasn’t done with her.  “So, um, you fell, right?”

“Yeah, I mean yes, I fell.”

“Are you alright?!” I ask in mock concern.

“Yes.”

“Do you need to see the nurse?”

“Uh, no, I already saw her.”

“Oh, you did?  She let you see her without a pass?  That was certainly generous of her.”

“Yeah, well she wasn’t busy.”

“How  lucky for you.  And surely she had you sign in and sign out, right?”

“Uh, no, she just gave me an ice pack and I left.”

“And where is the ice pack?”

“Oh, I threw it away before I got here.”

“Of course.  So let me recap:  You were on your way to my class with your friend, you fell, you went to the nurse, she didn’t sign you in, she gave you an ice pack, sent you on your way, and never signed you out, you threw the ice pack away before you got to class, and that is why you are late.  Do I have that right?”

“Yeah, I mean, yes.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to change any of the details in your story?  Now would be a good time to tell me why you were really late.”

“Gawd!  That is why I’m late!  You don’t hafta believe me!  Just ask my friend, So-and-so, she’ll tell you.  I should go get her.”

“No, that’s quite alright.”

With a self-satisfied smile, my student sits down, believing for all the world that she just got away with putting one past me…until she sees me pick up the phone in my room.

“Hello Ms. Nurse, this is Ms. Kunzmann.  I’m calling to check on one of my students who fell earlier and said she had stopped by your office to get an ice pack.  Her name is (blank) and she was just there.”

“I’m sorry Ms. Kunzmann, I never treated that student today.”

“Oh, I must be mistaken.  My apologies Ms. Nurse.  Sorry to have bothered you.”

And that was the end of it.  My student had a rueful, smile on her shamed face (at least she had the good grace to be embarrassed), and we got on with the business of 7th grade language arts.  Later during class, my student apologized to me, and I accepted.

I don’t expect my students to be perfect.  Heck, I’m not perfect, and I let my kids see my flaws.  I just want my kids to be accountable for their words and their actions.  It takes more of my time to ensure that they are held accountable in my classroom, than to just let them think they got away with some untoward word and/or deed.  It also takes a heck of a lot of repetition; they usually don’t get the lesson the first time.  But in the end, it’s worth it.

So, nine months into the ten month school year, and I am happy with the progress each and every one of my kids’ has shown.  Their teachers next year won’t have too much breaking in to do.  Now, if I can just do something about the other 500 students not under my charge.  Those bebe’s kids will just have to wait until next year.

Peace, ~v.

 

 

 


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Begin Again


June 4, 2015

“Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you’ve been through, it’s never too late to begin again.”
Joyce Meyer, You Can Begin Again: No Matter What, It’s Never Too Late

Dear Readers,

I cannot count the times I have had to begin again.  I won’t belabor the point, but, yeah, I’m beginning again.  And although that is the title of today’s post, I have a much bigger issue to discuss with you.

Few people I know will ever know the pain of being homeless.  Fewer still will know the pain of an empty belly.  No, I’m not going to tell you I was homeless, starving on the street.  However, there are too many people in my community who are.  I can help do something about it.

As I sit in my air conditioned home in a city that reaches triple digit temperatures throughout the summer, I am moved to action.  I cannot imagine not having a place to cool off throughout these hot days.  And I can’t imagine not helping where ever I can.

Volunteering is nothing new.  In fact, it’s universal.  I write this tongue in cheek, dear Readers.  However, if you are looking for similarities, and not differences between you and the rest of the world, volunteering qualifies.

I wish I had been more diligent in teaching my own children how important it is to give back to one’s community through volunteering.  I guess it’s never too late.  Hey you guys…Volunteer, it’s good for the soul.  And if you live in the area, hit this place up:

Praise Chapel Food for Families
590 Hancock Rd.
Bullhead City, AZ, 86442
Peace, ~v.

 

 


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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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Just the Facts, Ma’am


July 13, 2014

Dear Readers,

This is the third day in a row that I have attempted to write a list of characteristics of the inner peace most of us are yearning for. I have the list, along with my comments, ready to post and publish. However, this is the third day in a row that something more important has caught my attention; it is also about peace.

This year I turn 50 years old and ever since I began to read and listen to the news (around age 10 or 11) I have heard the phrase, “Peace in the Middle East.”  I am also quite familiar with words and phrases such as Gaza, West Bank, Palestinians, airstrikes, Israelis, settlements, etc., etc., etc.  These are probably words and phrases that you, dear Readers, have heard in the news every now and again, right?  Also like me, dear Readers, you probably rely on the news, whether broadcast or print, to try and understand what it all means.  But who can you trust to give a fair and accurate report?  Apparently, not Western mainstream media.

Question authority.  As a young girl in school, I questioned what authority figures spoon fed me because I enjoyed being defiant.  As an adult, I question authority because I know that mainstream media is  full of fiction and fairy tales, designed to lull the average citizen into a mind-numbing stupor.  Unfortunately, average citizens blindly follow the media, so much, so that individuals believe only that which fits into their narrow worldview.  Here is a case in point:

On Tuesday July 8, 2014, on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, Ms. Sawyer incorrectly identified a Palestinian family amid the ruins of their home in Gaza, as an Israeli family picking through the rubble of their home in Israel.  This may seem like a harmless error, but wait, there is more.  Ms. Sawyer also implied that a woman, wearing a hijab (headscarf) and pictured among the ruins of Gaza, is an Israeli as well.  Still think harmless error?  There is even more.

As Diane Sawyer began her report, there were scenes of destruction visible on-screen.  She began, “We take you overseas now to the rockets raining down on Israel today as Israel tried to shoot them out of the sky.”  On-screen was video footage not of Israelis nor even Israel, but airstrikes on Gaza by the Israeli army.  As the viewer saw this picture:

ABC-Misreporting  Ms. Sawyer misreported, “…and here, an Israeli family trying to salvage what they can.”

 

 

 

Then the viewer saw and heard this:

Ms. Sawyer, “One woman standing speechless among the ruins.”

abc

The pictures fuzzy, yes.  So, if you would like to see the 26 second video, please go here:  http://youtu.be/k-m4PlW-KgI

The viewer is led to believe that Palestinians are launching airstrikes that have destroyed Israeli neighborhoods, leaving families misplaced.  The pictures are meant to invoke the emotions of the viewer to feel great sorrow for both Israel and the Israeli people.  And I’m willing to bet that even though ABC and Diane Sawyer issued apologies for making such an error, most viewers will not go out of their way to to verify the truth of the story.  More proof that people follow blindly.

Do the world a favor, dear Readers, question authority.  btw, Diane Sawyer’s apology appeared on Twitterabc2

and ABC posted their apology on their Facebook pageabc3

The worst part?  Mainstream media will continue to lead those of us that are willing to be misled, those of us that won’t speak up and speak out.  Again, I enjoy my rebellious streak, so I will continue to question authority.  And for the sake of all that is intelligent, when it comes to the truth, if you can’t trust the news source where “Everyday More Americans Choose ABC News, America’s #1 News Source,” who can you trust?  Peace, ~v.


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Memento Mori


photo (2)

July 7, 2014

Dear Readers,

I believe I have finally gotten back into the swing of things that is my routine.  Which I suppose is a good thing, considering that school starts for me in just over one week.  No more three month vacations for this girl.  Getting back into my routine also includes my writing.  It has been one of my more recent life goals to write on an everyday basis.  So, here goes…

Today’s Daily Prompt is entitled “Leftovers – For this week’s writing challenge, shake the dust off something — a clothing item, a post draft, a toy — you haven’t touched in ages, but can’t bring yourself to throw away.”  Because I couldn’t think of anything specific, I asked my sister to give me a letter and I would take it from there.  Today’s prompt is brought to you by the letter ‘M’.

Memento Mori is a Latin term that translate literally to ‘remember (that you have) to die.’  The term generally refers to an object serving as a reminder of the inevitability of death or our own mortality.  Sometimes confused with the term memento (often misspelled momento) which means an object or item that serves to remind one of a person, past event, etc.; keepsake; souvenir.  Well, there we go, a definition we can work with.

I tend to be a little clutter-y, at least as far as my space is concerned.  My bedroom, my desk at school, my bathroom, and a certain teeny-tiny spot in my garage.  I will admit that this clutter amounts to my own personal mementos.  I have gifts from my children, pictures of the past, report cards from my children’s long ago grade schools, medals, cards, and any number of  priceless memorabilia.  I will certainly be embarrassed when I die and my children are left with the task of cleaning out my belongings.  I should really clean things out.  However, the one thing I will never get rid of, the one thing that I simply must keep, is the little kid, heart necklace pictured at the beginning of this post.  Here is the history:

In March of 1997, I was 33 years old and was facing a new life as a single parent of my four living children.  To say that I was a wreck is an understatement.  Without rehashing my very colorful past, I was in a very bad place and I was dragging my children along for the ride.  My children were 12, 10 4, and 3.  I knew I needed help.  Thank God and my family.

I placed a call to my dad, a rarity in those days.  All I said was, “I need help, Dad.”  He knew what was up.  He said he would talk things over with my mom.  A few hours later, and much to my surprise, my dad pulled up in front of my sister’s house, where I had been staying, and announced he was taken custody of  my kids.  I didn’t argue, I didn’t fight, I didn’t fuss.  I knew it was the right thing for them.  But what to tell my kids?

I took all of my children into the back bedroom.  I explained what was wrong with me (the two oldest already knew) and that I needed to get help.  I told them that Nana and Tata would take care of them until I could get my shit together and be a proper mom.  My oldest daughter, Muffin, was wearing the heart necklace (pictured above) around her cute little, chubby neck.  She deliberately took it off, and held it in her hands.  She held it as though she was holding a priceless antique.  She then took her right index finger and motioned for me to bend down to her.  I knelt down to her so that we were eye-to-eye.  She then carefully and gently placed the heart necklace around my neck.  She whispered to me, “Mama, wear this necklace until we are back together, okay?”  I was speechless.

Throughout the next 3 years I wore that necklace faithfully.  Not only did I wear it, I displayed it.  I showered with it, I swam with it, I went to church with it and I went to school with it.

My two sons, 12 and 10, lived with my parents in Arizona and my two daughters at first went to live with my sister and her family in Arizona but eventually stayed with my brother and his wife in California.  I, myself, spent a summer drying out and coming to my senses.  Eventually, however, I moved back in with my parents and my sons.  My dad had instructed me that I was not to get my kids back until I went to school, graduated and became a teacher (something he knew I always wanted to be).  He would give custody back when, and if, he knew I could fully support them all.

I had signed legal guardianship over to both my parents and my brother and sister-in-law.  For those of you who do not understand the implications of such a move, it meant that I was responsible to pay child support.  Between the state of California and the state of Arizona, I was assessed a total of $1200 a month.  By the end of the three years, with interest, the total was over $45,000.  That’s right, over $45,000.  Here’s the good news, I paid every single solitary penny off.  I worked my way through college as a retail clerk, and my wages were garnered.  I became a teacher in January of 2001, and my wages were garnered.  Believe you me, the state gets their money.  And as well they should, I should have to pay for my own children.

I graduated from college in December of 2000, it only took me three years and a ton of student loans.  Here’s the great news, I regained custody of all of my children.  Yes, they all came back to live with me and I spent the next 12 years trying to be the best mother I could be.  I think I succeeded, at least that is where all indications point.  And the necklace?  The heart necklace my daughter so lovingly put around my neck?  Well, throughout the three year that I would visit my daughters, Muffin would sit in my lap and fiddle with the necklace with a faraway look in her eyes.  I never knew what she was thinking, I couldn’t bear to ask.  She obviously knew of its significance, as long as I am wearing it, we will be apart.

One day in December of 2000, when my children were all back with me safe and sound, I called Muffin into my bedroom.  Muffin was 8 years old.  I asked her if I could take the necklace off, now.  She nodded “Yes!” with a great big smile on her face.  I took it off, first time in over three and a half years, put it in a jewelry box, and we hugged and we cried.  Our separation journey had officially ended.

During my years of separation, that necklace was an albatross around my neck.  Now, however, it represents the connection I have, and will always have, to my children.  It is my memento mori because during those three years away from my children, I was reminded every day, remember you die.  Peace, ~v.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/leftovers/