My [redacted] Journey

A teacher's search for inner peace.


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Middle School Madness


new class

My new classroom.

August 26, 2016

Dear Readers,

School is back in session and emotions are running high.  So far in my classroom there’s been laughter and sorrow, smiles and tears, and a whole lot of learning…and that’s only me, the teacher, not my prepubescent charges.  As always, I have so much to learn about the students I teach.

The school year started out better than I had anticipated.  In fact, it started out better than anyone had anticipated, the other teachers, the administration, even the students.  The ‘feel’ of the new school year was much lighter, much happier, and much more chill than the previous three years.  Even the students’ behavior had seemed to mellow over the summer.  The school’s ‘detention room’ had much lower numbers than in previous years, and it began to feel like our school had turned a corner, at least behaviorally.  Which made what happened this past week so upsetting.  However, I have to admit, what happened this past week is part and parcel of teaching at the middle school level.

I have a secondary-education, English degree and in my state that means that I am able to teach 7th through 12th grade English Language Arts.  I have always known that my personality and my teaching style work best with teenagers, ages 14 to 17.  I am both strict and demanding of my students.  I expect every student to reach just past where they think they can and to work just a little bit harder than they think they should.  In other words, I have high standards, for my students as well as myself.

My high standards do not end at my classroom door.  I expect students to behave like they have some sense when in the presence of adults.  I realize that middle school students can act crazy and they can be loud and obnoxious, which is why you’ll find me wearing earphones when walking the halls and/or during school assemblies.  It’s not the crazy, loud and/or obnoxious behavior that bothers me, be cause believe me, I can act crazy, loud and/or obnoxious right along with my students.  No, it’s not that.  It’s the flagrant disrespect, the bullying, and the violence that I cannot tolerate.  And that is what always pushes my buttons.

In my classroom, the rules are simple: 1. Listen and follow directions; 2. Raise your hand and receive permission before leaving your seat; 3. Keep your hands and feet to yourself; 4. Respect yourself, your classmates, and your teacher.  The consequences are equally simple: The first time a student breaks one of the class rules I give the student a warning.  The second time a student breaks a class rule, they are sent to time-out.  This may seem babyish and elementary.  However, my students all work in groups and it pains them to be isolated from their peers.  Needless to say, it is rare that I have to go to step three.  I allow my students to re-enter their group once they have sat alone for a few minutes, thought about what they have done, admitted to me which rule(s) they broke, and apologize.

My last recourse for a rule-breaker in my class is to send them to the office with a referral. Now, once they leave my classroom and head to the office to speak with the vice-principal, any further consequence is out of my hands, and the rule-breaker is out of my hair…at least for a the day.  Fast forward to this past week.

This past Wednesday was quite an eye-opener.  Not only did I have to write one referral in one of my classes, I was close to writing 8, yes, 8 referrals in one class.  I was beside myself.  Before I began yelling (yes, I do raise my voice at my little cherubs), I stepped away from the front of my class to calm down.  That is when I had a small epiphany: my students tune out anger and respond to calm.  I calmly addressed the class.

It worked!  The 8 rule-breakers were subdued with my soft, low voice and my encouraging words of wisdom…for exactly 6 minutes.  Six minutes is just enough time to lull me into a sense of false security!  It was the end of  the period and I just didn’t have the heart to write 8 referrals.  In fact, I was so hurt and disappointed that all I wanted to do was cry.  I excused my students to their next class with the threat of writing referrals for the unhappy eight as soon as school was out.

I didn’t stick around after school to fill out the paperwork, “I’ll do it in the morning,” I sighed to myself.  I do not make idle threats to my students, that just leads to students not taking my word seriously.  No, I had to follow through with the consequences.  However, I would sleep on it and go in to the office in the morning, sans emotion (I hear that is always best).

The next morning at school as I was writing the referrals, I received a call from one of the mothers of the unhappy eight.  The mother wanted to know why I was punishing her daughter, at which time I politely explained my class rules, i explained which rules her daughter broke, and what the consequences were.  The mother’s response?  “Well that doesn’t sound like my daughter.”  Sigh.  Of course not.

There was no getting through to this mother.  She kept insisting, “That doesn’t sound like my daughter!” and my insisting that it was exactly like her daughter was not going to change her mind.  Finally, she said, “Well, I’m good friends with Mr. Vice Principal, and I’m going to give him a call!”  Sigh.  Of course.

I was certainly upset with this exchange.  However, I had the whole morning to decide how I should handle the whole referral mess, the afternoon would come soon enough.

As the unhappy eight entered my classroom, I realized they were happy and smiling.  The mess from the day before was long forgotten.  What had broken my heart wasn’t even a  blip on their radar.  Oddly enough, this made me smile.  The were 11 and 12 year old kids and they had been acting like 11 and 12 year old kids!  It was then that I had a little bit bigger epiphany: they are only 11 and 12 year old kids!

The class began with light and airy conversation between me and the (now) happy eight.  I was certainly in a much better mood, as were they.  As we all came to an understanding, the student whose mother had called me that morning raised her hand and asked with a smile on her face, “Miss, did my mother give you a hard time on the phone?”

I smiled back, a genuine smile and said, “No, she just kept telling me, ‘That doesn’t sound like my daughter.'”

My student chuckled, “Yeah, she doesn’t know how I act at school.”

Of course not.

Peace, ~v.

 

 

 

 


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Stay Gold


May 5, 2015

Dear Readers,

Fourteen years and way too soon ago tomorrow, my father passed away from that insidious disease, “C”. With all of my heart, I wanted my post to evolve into a sincere, yet loving, yet heartfelt tribute to my dad that would make my mother proud. A tribute for the ages! A tribute to end all tributes! A tribute…well, you get the picture.

Mom always said I was too dramatic, and sadly, perhaps it is true: I am too dramatic. And given that I am so, umm, theatrical, I intended to stage the perfect tribute. Rather, I intended to write the perfect…well, you get the picture.

On a serious note, my years of teaching parallel the number of years our family has been without its patriarch (14), which, in itself, is almost not a milestone. However, when you couple one of my greatest joys with one of my greatest sorrows, it does lend itself to dramatics, at least in my world. So, why can I not write the tribute? Something’s blocking me, and I think I know what it is.

This is my first year teaching a standard 7th grade Language Arts class. As far back, and as early in the school year, as September, I had my doubts and misgivings. Here is an excerpt from a letter I addressed to both my principal and my vice-principal:

I don’t know what it will take for these students to learn what they have to in order to pass 7th grade Language Arts. However, I fear that I am not the one to teach it to them.

This has been my best start as a teacher and I feel the best I have ever felt. Yet, my students’ academics are the worst they have ever been.

I am losing hope in my ability as an effective instructor.

Again with the dramatics, right? Wrong! Call it a bad feeling, call it a sixth sense, call it any euphemism you can think of; I knew I was in for a wild ride. And so did my principal. Here is an excerpt from her response:

Do not lose hope or confidence. We need to help all teachers of 7th graders get the message through to this group that their lack of effort is just unacceptable.

That message never got through to them. In fact, they never received even the basic of messages one expects to get through to a 12 year old. Messages such as, “Be respectful and trustworthy,” “Treat others how you wish to be treated,” and “Bullies get bullied.” No, those messages never made it through.

However, they did receive these messages: “Respect no one, not even yourself,” “Treat yourself better than you treat others because, like yolo (you only live once),” and the ever popular, “Snitches get stitches.” What a wonderful world it could be…

I mean to make the most of my last few weeks with my students; they may have given up and/or given in, I have not. I am not sure that I can salvage what has been a painful series of life lessons at the hands of a bunch of prepubescent schoolchildren, but I’m going to give it my best. After all, it’s not like a bunch of prepubescent schoolchildren determine whether or not I still have a job next year, right? Oh yeah, that is right. Hmm, gold is not good, or as Robert Frost put it, “Nothing gold can stay.” Peace, ~v.


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ACT Out


March 4, 2015 Dear Readers, I recognize academic burnout when I see it.  Most, if not all of us, have had it a time or two in our lifetime.  I mean, let’s face it, from about the age of 4 or 5, upwards toward 18, we have an excess of compulsory school days in this country.  So yeah, at one time or another, even I, lover of school and all things academic, have had academic burnout.  It is what caused me to dropout of college after only 1 year.  However, by that time, I had been going to school for 14 years.  The thought of continuing another 2 was simply too much for me to take.  I recognize academic burnout. Unfortunately, I am seeing this phenomenon in my students.  “Ho-hum,” some of you might sigh, “it happens to the best of us.”  And indubitably, I would agree.  However, signs of academic burnout in 12 and 13 year-olds used to be few and far between, it was the exception, not the rule. When academic burnout hit me, at age 19, I emptied out my brain of anything and everything remotely school-y, I dropped out of the college scene, and I began working as a cashier at a convenience store.  Now granted, it was certainly not the academic accolades I had always dreamt of receiving, but I worked hard, I began raising my family, and I was a contributing member of society.  And truly, what more could society expect from this college drop-out? Eventually, and by eventually I mean 14 years later, I returned to school, earned a Secondary Education/English B.A, graduated with honors, and became the teacher I knew I was always meant to be. But that was me.  That was 19, 20 year-old me.  What path is there for a 12, 13 year-old academic burnout? Even as I say it, it sounds ludicrous, “12, 13 year-old academic burnout!”  But I’ve seen it; am seeing it.  And it breaks my heart.  It breaks my heart not because they will have an adverse effect on society, although chances are…  No, it breaks my heart because the joy of learning has all been sucked out of education and out of my students’ lives, if in fact, it was ever there to begin with. My students cannot recall a time in their education when they weren’t being tested to death.  And that, dear Readers, breaks my heart. This past Tuesday marked the 21st instructional day my students have given up to testing.  Wait, scratch that; the 21st instructional day that has been stolen from my students.  Of the mere 51 school days so far this year, my students have slogged through 8 Common Formative Assessments (CFAs), 8 re-take CFAs, 4 days of Galileo Summative Assessments, and now, the ACT Explore.  The 16 CFAs to gauge how well they grasped the content of the individual standards, the 4 days of Galileo to gauge how well they grasped the content of the individual standards, and the ACT as a pre-cursor as to how well they should expect to do on their college entrance exam!  Seriously?  Seriously. As I walked up and down the rows of 8th graders, I wanted them to act out, act up, act indignant, act insulted, act like they were mad as hell and they weren’t going to take it anymore.  Admittedly, all they could do was act lethargic.  And sadly, that was no act.  21 of my students’ 51 school days have been eaten up with testing.  A full 41% of their time under my tutelage has been snatched away because of testing.  Almost every other day.  Testing. Today, and I’m no social scientist here, but today’s junior high school students are exhibiting signs of academic burnout so frequently as to be considered normal.  Is this what we, as a nation, are striving for?  Is this the goal of our education communities?  Is this how academia as we know it will end, not with a bang, but with a whimper?  Say it ain’t so, Joe, say it ain’t so.  Peace, ~v.


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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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H.W.G.A. or Here We Go Again


August 7, 2014

Dear Readers,

Here we go again.  When we were growing up, my siblings and I used to say, “HWGA,” whenever our parents would argue with one another.  We would roll our eyes at one another and simply mutter, “HWGA,” and we all knew what that meant, “Here we go again!”  We would all scatter to various rooms in the house, or sneak outside so as to not have to listen and/or to give our parents their privacy.  Don’t know if we ever told Mom and Dad what HWGA meant, or if they even knew we had a little code.  Well, Mom knows now if she’s reading this (sorry MmR, GaZjr, AeZ, FaZ, MdZ, VlD and DrZ for giving away the secret).

Today’s post will be my last post for…well, I don’t know how long.  I will leave this post, and the rest of my blog up for three days, and then I am sorry to say, I will be shutting it down.  I am sure some of my dear Readers would like to know why.  Here is the condensed version:  a student.  That’s all I will say on the matter.  However, I will be back.  I don’t know where or when, but I will be back.

I do this to protect not me, but my loved ones.  It is my decision to write, so I am willing to suffer the repercussions.  however, I do not wish to harm anyone with what I do and who I am.  I know you dear Readers will understand.

Now, on to loose ends.  In my last post, The Ones You Never Forget, I wrote about a former student (CM) that seemed to be troubled.  I had several people tell me that they wouldn’t be surprised if I hear from the student again and that he would remember me.  Well dear Readers, God does have a way of making believers out of us cynics.  Yesterday, two days after my post, CM did indeed get in touch with me!  He has since graduated from high school (no small feat) and is gainfully employed and looking forward to being a father and getting married (in that order).  He said he sought counseling on and off through his high school years and although he is not quite over some trauma he suffered in his teen years, he is much better than when I saw him last.

Now this is why I teach, because of kids like CM.  When I met him, he did not believe he had a chance at a life, he couldn’t see past his pain.  I did not think he would ever remember that I taught him how to write a complete paragraph, nor did I think he would remember that I taught him how to write a proficient essay.  What I was hoping for, however, was that he would remember the seed of hope I was so desperately trying to plant within him.  He thanked me for always believing in him, for never giving up on him, and most importantly, never letting him give up on himself.  Wow!  You could have knocked me over with a feather  Now that is why I teach.

Two other posts that I have to close out are Out of Focus and Out of Focus, Again.  Although this school year has started off better than perhaps the past five or so years, I had one class that I was not really connecting to, yet.  I thought I had solved the problem, but after a second lesson went flat, I decided I needed to try a new tactic.  I thought, I prayed, I meditated, I slept, I asked fellow teachers, I thought I had tried everything.  Then, God sent me an angel in the form of a Badass Teacher, DS.

DS wrote to me and suggested that I try a team building exercise.  Some may know it by a different name, but the premise is the same.  When you are with a group, be it work, school or church, and you must function as a group, you must have trust and a sense of camaraderie.  Without those two things, your group will not function properly.

“But, of course!” I thought when I read DS’s message.  “I need to build a little trust and camaraderie among my students.”  Not only does it help the students gel as a class and as small groups within the class, it is a diagnostic tool for me.  Here is how my team building exercise went:

I had my students do an exercise called “The Human Knot,” (again, some may know it by a different name).  Eight students stand in a circle, for my classes it worked out well, since my classes are in groups of four.  The eight students put their right hands in the middle of the circle and grab the hand of someone within the circle that is not standing next to them.  Next, they put their left hands in the middle of the circle and they grab the hand of someone else not standing next to them.  In order for the exercise to work, each student must be holding hands with two different people, and they must not be holding hands with someone directly to their left, or directly to their right.

Next, the students must try and untangle themselves to form a circle without dropping each others’ hands.  It can be done.  It has been done.  And in my classes, it was done.

At first, the students were reluctant to hold each others’ hands.  Then, all it took was for one student to make a move, and they all dug in, teamwork at its finest.  It worked beautifully.  One group within each of the three classes that tried this,   were able to form a circle.  It was the neatest thing to watch.  And that is all I did, watch.  Here were the results:

Most of the students were able to successfully work together.  However, there were a few that started out extremely annoyed with me for even suggesting this exercise, but they quickly joined in and tried to help.  Even so, there were two or three who simply refused to help, they just stood there, not helping, but not hurting the team.  The students thought it was fun, but didn’t really know what it could possible tell me.

I was able to see who the leaders and the reluctant leaders of the groups were, who the loyal followers were, who the reluctant followers were, and who took on the role of comic relief.  After each class had finished the exercise, I gave each student my observation of how they functioned in a group.  For the most part, the way students behave in team building exercises is the way they will behave when working in small groups.  Both the students and I were surprised at the leadership qualities in some of their peers.  However, I explained to them, now I know who has the leadership qualities, and I fully expect them to live up to their roles.

I tried this, and similar team building exercises with many of my classes over the years.  And each student that has participated, has risen to the high expectations I have set for them…without exception.  It was, and has been an exceptional diagnostic tool.  Now that I can see the beginnings of my students strengths and weaknesses with a small group, I can begin to work with them to get their best efforts.  By the end of the first quarter (around the end of August) I should see students working up to the high expectations I maintain for all of my students.  Teaching…It’s a Beautiful Thing.

Well, dear Readers we have come to the end of  very fine friendship, at least I think so.  I will be back someday; someday soon, I hope.  I will continue to write, because writing soothes my soul.  As for publishing, well, I’m working on it.  I thank each and everyone of you, dear Readers around the world.  I have enjoyed every smile, every frown, every frustration, every thing that this blog has brought me.  I leave you with the hope that you will all go out and change the world for the better, even just a little, I know I will.

Please always remember, and don’t ever forget…Peace, ~v.

 


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You Make How Much?


A new school year begins.

A new school year begins.

July 18, 2014

Dear Readers,

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you want me as your child’s teacher.  I do what is in the best interest of the students, even if it is not what is in my best interest.  Small example, today’s students work better in small groups than individually.  Subsequently, my classroom is set up with tables and chairs instead of traditional student desks.  Students working in small groups drives me up a wall.  However, it is not about me, it is about doing what is best for my students.  And I do a great many small things that would ordinarily bother me, but it is what is best for my students, your children.  Today, I was reminded of one of the great things that I sacrifice for the good of my students:  my salary.

Because my salary is a matter of public record, and without an exaggeration, I will tell you that my it runs somewhere between $33,000 to $35,000 pr year. I have an advanced degree with a double major, my student loans totaled over $43,00, and I have been a certified teacher for 14, almost 15 years now.    I think I have eared the right to  earn just as much as any other professional with my educational qualifications.  However, most of you Mr. and Mrs. Average Citizens do not seem to agree.

Last night was our school district’s Welcome Back to School Night for both parents and students.  I found myself in the middle of a conversation between two parents about what educators should earn once they become teachers.  I politely declined to give my opinion.

However, it is a subject that comes up every few years or so.  In fact, even now, my school district is proposing to its citizens an increase in its primary property tax levy.  This would increase property taxes on a $100,000 home from $2,370.00 to $2,639.20.  And that was the topic of discussion I came upon last night.

Although I have addressed this subject before in my August 1st, 2013 blog post entitled “A Class Divided“, the conversation is almost always the same thing.

“Another tax raise?  We just voted to give teachers a raise.  But, I see in the news that our school’s are failing our children.  What about that?  Why should teachers get more money if our kids can’t even read and write at grade level?  Shouldn’t a raise be based on your job performance?  If teachers are doing their jobs, shouldn’t students be able to pass their reading and writing tests?”

I just smiled and nodded, very non-committal.  But that just gave the parents fuel to add to their fire.

“Aren’t the reading and writing scores at this school not very good?  A couple of years ago, my oldest son took the [reading and writing test] and he did not pass.  But he passed his Language Arts class.  How does that happen?  Shouldn’t he pass the state test if he passed Language Arts?   I don’t understand.  I think it’s the teacher’s responsibility to make sure my child learns what he is supposed to pass the test.  Do you think teachers should get a raise  when kids are failing the state test?  I don’t want them t raise my taxes.  And I don’t want to pay teachers for not doing their jobs.”

I remained quiet, still smiling and nodding and in time the parents ran out of steam and we got down to the business of introducing ourselves.  However, I can and will answer the parents’ concerns right here and right now.

Yes, I should be held accountable for how well I teach your children, my students.  The problem is, the state test the students take are not an accurate measure of my job performance.  Just because your child does not pass the state test does not indicate I did a poor job of educating him.  There are so many factors that go into whether or not your child does well on his test.  Did he get a decent night’s sleep?  Did he have a well-balanced breakfast?  Did he complete all of the homework pertaining to what is on the test?  If homework is not turned in, if classwork is not completed, your child has not done his job as a student.

I, however, have done my job.  I have completed the lessons and given the tests that the state requires of me.  I do my job and I do it well.  I should get a raise based on my job performance and not your child’s test scores.  I can think of no other job that ties trainers raises to whether or not the workers they trained can pass a test.  No, it is the worker who failed the test that either loses his raise or loses his job.

Being a good teacher does not necessarily translate into high, or even passing test grades.  There are so many other contributing factors.  What are they, you ask?  Well, each child is different.  I know only a small part of your child’s abilities, worries and various other personal characteristics.  I can assess, observe, and teach your child.  However, and this is a very unpopular viewpoint, you as his parent should be able to tell me what the other contributing factors are to your child’s testing abilities.

You are his parent, I am merely his teacher.  One of us has more of a responsibility than the other.  One of us has the potential to spend more time with the child than the other.  One of us has values and morals to teach this child.  Me, his teacher, I do the best I can.  You, the parent, do you?  How about the student, does he do the best he can?

Geez, all of this for a mere $34,000 a year?  Peace, ~v.


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Observations From Behind


July 16, 2014

Dear Readers,

At 7:15 this morning, my school year officially began. Well, my school year officially began at 7:32, I was late. No matter though, I only missed breakfast, served in the junior high cafeteria complete with the little jr. high tables and little jr. high seats and a jr. high breakfast. Yum. Rest assured, those of you who believe teachers are failing our children, most administrators are failing teachers, so we are kinda even.

If you are a teacher, you would probably do well to skip this section as I would hate to be responsible for any flashbacks you might experience. I am currently, well, writing this blog post, the teacher across from me is playing Candy Crush, the teacher next to him is checking out his Facebook, the teacher to my left is stuck on an Emoji puzzle, and the rest of the hundred or so district educators are praying they do not win the door prize.  This year’s prize?  Season tickets to the Colorado River’s series of concerts, otherwise known as what passes for cultured entertainment in a ridiculously small town.  There are several male teachers within my earshot who are teasing one another about what they will do if they in fact, win the door prize…I can’t really distinguish what they are saying as I am scrunched down behind one of them so I can surreptitiously write my blog post from my iPhone without anyone being the wiser.

I’m ear hustling some of my colleagues’ more interesting sounding side-conversations.  Not to be done in polite company, I know.  But, it is blessedly keeping me from nodding off. One teacher is having a running commentary with her text messages.  She has items listed on Craigslist but is having trouble trying to text back her potential customers.  That’s about as interesting as it’s gonna get around here.  Unless I want to listen to a plethora of, “How was your summer’s?” I may have to actually pay attention to the Welcome Back to School presentations.

Now here is the ultimate in irony. A trainer from the local health club is droning on and on about the benefits of physical exercise.  His goal is to encourage all of us overworked, under excersized educators to sign up for a membership to his gym, at a substantial discount of course.  The irony of it all is that the people responsible for today’s presentations and such are the same people responsible for seeing to it that our 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students no longer have recess.  Seriously?  Mr. Gym Guy gets to preach to a bunch of mostly middle-aged teachers about the benefits of running around to keep our bodies in shape.  Meanwhile, our 11, 12, and 13 year old students are forced to attend school from 7:15am until 2:30pm with absolutely no recess whatsoever?  I am not exaggerating, dear Readers.  Students are allowed into the cafeteria at 6:45am to eat breakfast and they are not allowed to leave until the morning bell rings at 7:10am.  Then, the students are allowed 30 minutes for lunch, which must be spent in the cafeteria.  They are released when the bell signals that it is time to start the afternoon classes.  NO RECESS.  How many 11, 12, and/or 13 year old kids do you know would be willing to learn after no physical release of their pent up energy?  Jeez, and teachers are to blame for the failure of today’s education.  Yeah, right!

Well dear Readers, another beginning of the year, welcome back presentation has come to an end and I must go prepare my classroom and my lesson plans for my students’ return on Monday.  And just so you know, I often times have cafeteria duty during the school year.  I’ve been known to release the students from the cafeteria 10-15 minutes before lunch is over so that they can run around on the playground before returning to their studies.  I am such a rebel!  It’s gonna be a great year!  Peace, ~v.