It’s Blackbird Nesting Season!

14 05 2012

Metaphor the Heck of It

22 11 2010

One of the more common human complaints is unrewarded hard work.  I’ve experienced this myself — primarily in cases involving extraordinarily strong candy wrappers, but also in less important ways.  I guess it’s a way of feeling like we’re being recognized (and so, rewarded with at least attention) for our hard work, and thereby consoling ourselves with the impression of others’ sympathy. (Of course, there’s also that phrase about hard work being its own reward.  I believe this phrase originated during the transcontinental railroad’s construction, because according to Cory and my brain memories many people were not paid for their work on the railroad and also died.  I’m not sure that they died because they weren’t paid, but I have to believe it was a significant medical factor.

My job sometimes makes me feel like one of those people, specifically on the 13 days out of each pay period on which I am not paid.  (I prefer to see this as my work being worth a lot of money to my employer every other Friday, and utterly worthless every other day.  This is why I try to work harder on that Friday* than any other of those fourteen days: I get paid no matter how many times I pretend to accidentally sneeze on my boss.

Really though, everyone works hard without recognition at times.  This is good.  Places where people work hard and are constantly watched are called “prison camps in Russia, 1938” and are notorious for their lack of OSHA-standardized urinals.  Also everyone dies there.

But there is one arena where you can work hard and be absolutely lauded for it each time, every time:  Building Cookie Forts.  Yes, that is correct.  Building forts composed entirely of cookies will always get you plenty of glory and peer recognition, which you of course have no use for by this point because you are too busy EATING FORTY ACRES OF COOKIES.  This really demonstrates, in its own way, how we can all get past our individual feelings of inadequacy: destroying castles.  I’m not rock-solid on the dates, but I believe twelve of the famous military  “crusades” were launched by psychiatric patients fresh out of therapy, which is one of the main reasons for their profound and lasting success.  And it’s been well-documented in history (I have heard) that these “crusades” not only drastically improved people’s self esteem circa AD 1280, but also led to the invention of a term called “self-esteem.”  And of course, all you history buffs know right where that led:  America.  Yep, one day Christopher Columbus was all depressed and staring out the window while Enzo Ferrari invented the airplane, and then he saw a book fortuitously lying on his hands: “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, by famous author/time traveler Leonardo Di Caprio.  One speed-read through that book and he suddenly realized two things:  1) He could suddenly read English, and 2) He was way smarter than Leonardo Di Caprio.  The next minute he was putting on his Friday best (they only had five days back then) and hypnotizing the king’s dancing bear into giving him some ships so he could discover America.  And the rest, as you certainly know, is history.




*This Friday is also referred to as “Turbo Nap Day” by my department, but for different reasons**

**We take naps

Ten hour days

1 04 2010

Working for the weekday

And I’m okay with this

Putting in my 45

And getting out of town tonight

It’s working for me right now but

eventually I’ll kowtow to the psuedo

souvenirs that line my pay stub

every Friday.

Weakened from the weekend and I’ve met my match

on Monday.

But somehow these five steps are steeper

when you’re not upon them.

Protected: Day of Days

26 11 2009

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Patrick Kane Beats Up Taxi Drivers for $0.20

16 08 2009

Really, he does.

I’m on the cusp of big changes.  I’ll have to start writing a lot in the next month, but if things pan out (Lord willing) I could be entering a stage of great responsibility and great experience.

I would love to be in charge of something this big; it appears I will have that chance by September 11th.  I’ve waited, patiently and not, for over a year.  I’ve groaned, cried, complained and despaired over anything like this ever coming to fruition.

And while it hasn’t yet happened, and much could still change, I pray that I will be up to the task that now sits before me.

Pardon the pretentious dust, but I’m excited.  I even chose to drink an Americano this afternoon despite the rather unpleasantly evocative nature of the prospect; it was as bitter as I was (expecting it) to be.  But, like I could probably stand to do more often, I used my “treat receipt” (name courtesy of the cute/overly helpful barista) to engorge myself with a Frappuccino.  White mocha with caramel (the first and only way I have drunk something as repulsively delicious as a Starbucks Frappuccino) is now coursing through my veins, and I can’t imagine a better way to prepare myself for Sunday afternoon hockey.  Bring it on, boys.

Of Penalty Kicks and Pride

1 02 2009

I’ve always wondered what holds islands up.  How deep does their land mass go?  I assume, even for the smallest ones, that it extends all the way to the ocean’s floor, otherwise they would drift around.  Still, I’ve never really been able to shake my initial conception of them as bobbing land masses, hovering on the surface of the water until some whim sends them away.

I don’t think I would ever want to live on an island, but I think it would be nice to live close to one.  That way, I could always look over at the island when I was having a bad day and say, “Well, at least those suckers can’t go mini-golfing like I can!”  I think that would really brighten my day, unless I had a bad day at mini-golfing and had no desire to be involved with it at all.  That would probably make looking at the island a little more strange.  Perhaps I would begin to see myself as an island; I am, after all, quite a land mass.  I have been doing well with running and such for a while now, but I still enjoy calling myself fat.  Probably because I think that, as long as I’m not self-conscious about my weight, I can joke about it.  If I ever get so fat that I can’t joke about my weight, then I think I would be unhappy.  Besides, I’d constantly be thinking that I was the person that I always made fun of at fast food restaurants, you know?  “Oh, there goes Mr. Super-Size Me with a double western bacon cheese burger again.  What a turdpants.”

Actually, I’ve never called anyone turdpants, that I can remember.  I did tell a kid named Maverick once that Brittany was his “true princess” in like 4th or 5th grade after he was flirting with her (Her name may have been Kimberly) and then he told me to shut up.  I don’t remember ever being told to shut up before then, which is a surprise considering how brazen I could be at times in my childhood.  I always regret that I didn’t work harder at my bullying — then I could be one of those kids who just expressed himself badly instead of a little turdpants.  Although, to be clear, I have near turded my pants that I can remember.  I did have one incident in Paso Robles or Porterville before a soccer tournament, but that didn’t end up mattering.  I ever got taken down on a breakaway in that tournament, but Coach decided to have Sam take the penalty shot instead of me, mainly because Sam was left-footed.  I’ve always been resentful of left-handed athletes since then.  Somehow, despite John and my many years in all-stars, neither of us ever managed to score a goal.  I do remember some really nice ones I had during the season, though, including a PK I put in off the crossbar.  I think Brice hugged me after that, or maybe it was after my header on a corner kick.  That was definitely my best season, I would say.  We beat “No Fear” in the championship game, which was very impressive considering that they hadn’t lost a game during the season.  I remember our coach doing a backflip and getting dogpiled afterwards.  That was around 6th grade, I believe.  Kids started getting meaner after that, though.

One of the 7th graders at PACE yesterday started telling one of the 6th grade girls to shut up and to stop looking at her.  There was something about her tone of whiny bravado that made me instantly purse my lips and stare at her.  Thankfully, one of my coworkers (who has like ten years of teaching experience) managed to defuse the situation pretty easily.  It’s not that I was afraid of dealing with it, but I do believe in letting kids work things out to a reasonable degree.  It’s good for people to learn how to deal with conflict, especially when the other person is being stupid.  It’s not good, however, to let younger kids get verbally abused just because some 7th-grade latchkey kid has something to prove.  Why is there such a focus on pride over integrity?  I’ve seen a few different instances of older kids defying younger ones to say something to them, and I finally realized why it bugs me so much:  The same attitude is just as present in adults.

I know that kids–especially adolescent ones–are constantly battling their insecurities, and this often works itself out in shows of arrogance to those they deem to be inferior.  Adults, however, can be just as prone to such displays.  I’ve heard more than a few people, even coworkers, who will lecture other students about something without any indication that they actually care about imparting their idea.  Rather, they seem to be seeking to wow the child or other person with their knowledge or pretense.

After all, if I know that X works this way, then for you to not know it either proves your ignorance or my prominence.  Thankfully, our egos can receive a large boost from either of these things, so I’ll be safe either way.

I remember a particular instance last week when one of my kids asked me how Barack Obama could have possibly memorized his inauguration speech.  Recognizing an opportunity to illustrate how flawed our education system is today, I started to talk about how people used to memorize everything they learned, more or less. I was going to give an example or two, but I didn’t have a chance.  As I began to respond to her, I was almost immediately cut off by a coworker who couldn’t resist the opportunity to talk about brain capacity and short-term/long-term memory.  He spoke quickly and patronizingly, using phrases like “Well, haven’t you heard of…” and “Don’t you know about…” often.  He finally ended by cutting her question off with a flippant remark that, I’m sure, really piqued her desire to learn more about the subject:  “Never mind, you don’t get what I’m saying.”

I was incensed.

To end this long-winded and schizophrenic post, I’ll just write the tirade that I desired to release upon my fellow pedagogue’s deserving ears:

Did that feel good?  Have you properly quenched your desire to lord your knowledge over someone a third of your age?  I can’t imagine why our school systems are failing, with people like you being so entrenched in the classroom.  Surely, your uncontrollable need to validate yourself must have only the most positive effect upon the occasional (and increasingly rare) student that wanders across your path with a question.  I hope that you didn’t waste too much of your valuable time on this student who dared to ask a question.  Of course, if your patronizing words don’t sink in on the first try, why should you be bothered to make a second attempt?  I’m glad that you abandoned any idea of simplification or expansion upon ideas in favor of an information dump.  After all, quick, one-time lectures are the proven method for conveying knowledge to children, right?  Questions be damned, childish ignorance be quashed!  We are here to teach the willing and apt, not the confused and inquiring.  How dare you, sir.  How dare you take the mantle of knowledge and use it to shroud and repel those who are seeking its folds?  (Ok, I probably wouldn’t ever say that to anyone. It sounds cool, though.  Also creepy and litigable.)  If you see it so necessary to interrupt me from answering my student because of your obviously superior knowledge, where do you get off brushing them aside after one question?  Are you really so desperate to be seem as all-knowing that you will sacrifice an 8th grader’s question upon your altar of self-esteem?  If questions are so repugnant to you, then do mankind a favor and get another job.  You should know better than most how difficult it is to find a willing student in our age of cynicism, yet at the drop of a hat you proceed to crush a student’s quest for knowledge without so much as a second glance.  This student may not be capable of absorbing your monologues as you may wish, but the students are not the ones being employed and implored to spark the fire of inquiry within this school.  If you ever brush off one of my students like that again, you will find yourself on the receiving end of some childish impudence, sir.  Thank you.

Ok, I think it’s out of my system for now.  Go Stars.

Insubordinating Conjectures

18 12 2008

Different cultures lend themselves to different approaches in nearly every facet of life.  When it comes to children, this is especially noticeable.  Everything from the value of free time to notions of discipline are starkly contrasted between parents of different backgrounds, and it isn’t uncommon for me to notice my own shortfalls because of this contrast.  I used to take pride in my accomplishments of childhood, but many of the kids I see on a daily basis are somewhat listlessly doing what I used to only just accomplish with both fervor and exertion.

Yesterday, an 8th grade student was loudly and publicly reprimanded for failing to go to one of her instructor’s offices after being called.  Having received my fair share of spankings and lectures as a kid, I am not one to criticize the effect of apparently harsh discipline on kids.  (perhaps I should be the first to be critical of it, says Micah in my head.)  However, it wasn’t simply the discipline that bugged me.  It was the fact that this student was one of the most sedulous kids I’ve ever met.  Last week, she began ranting to me about one of her peers (whom, coincidentally, she was defending from taunts immediately before getting in trouble) who had called her “too serious” because of her penchant for working harder than most people on her assignments.  This girl then went on to describe the insidious nature of laziness to me.  College, she said, is already ridiculously hard; if she doesn’t start taking her schoolwork seriously now, she may find it too late to restructure her work ethic upon her first day at Stanford.

Hopefully, that paints something akin to my impression of this kid.  So, when I hear her being chewed out for not coming when called, I viscerally detest every word.  Here is someone who, naively or not, gets it. Why not stay at least somewhat composed before lecturing her more discreetly later on?  Even more than that, does it not occur to this lady that her student might take such a reprimand far worse than those who are accustomed to being in trouble?  Someone who spends nearly every waking moment to satisfy requirements and achieve long-term goals will maybe, just maybe, be a little more sensitive to being made an example of in front of her largely lesser peers than one of your frequently churlish peers.

As I’m already far beyond the boundaries of coherent paragraph-structure, I’ll throw in a paraphrase of Trumpkin:  If children are treated like incorrigible fools, how can you expect them to become something better?  I have always tried to treat kids like adults (to a reasonable degree, mind) whenever possible; seeing them cowed like idiots is infuriating.  Certainly, one must have a firm hand with children so as to correct their behavior, even if the child is a “good” one, but I can’t abide sinking to the level of a frothing taskmaster when dealing with 14 year-olds.

(When my children grow up to be serial killers, you can throw this back in my face.)