365 Stories Tell it Like It is #1

“I’m glad the Clucks burned down.  It gives you a chance to restart, you know?  Choose what you want to be when you grow up.”  She was staring at the plastic pool in our backyard as it filled with water and she had a habit of riffing.  She would just start saying stuff hoping something’d stick.  “Why not be a pool cleaner?  Couldn’t make no kinda money at it here, but two neighborhoods that way…”
“I can’t”
“What, you above it?”
“Tramticatized.”
“Why?  You almos drownt in a pool?”
“No, almost died cleaning one though, as a kid.”  And I began to tell it.  “My sis and me were hired by the couple down the street who bought a real bad fixer.”
“Sorry to do this to you, but those are all the tools we have,”  A young couple stood arm in arm and squinted at the dirty kids.  One kid had a skimmer and the other the kind of skimmer with a bag at the end.
“You on purposely bought a fixer, why aren’t you cleaning this.”
“We bought a fixer upper with the express intention of getting cheap labor from the neighborhood kids.”  The woman ended her flippant comment with a soothing grin and they disappeared.  The two got started dipping into layers of decomposing leaves.
“CJ!  I felt something move under here!”  A girl in pigtails hopped away from the edge of the pool.
“Maybe it’s a frog!”
CJ’s instrument was wrenched from his hands and lost into the pool.  “Louis!”
“See?  I told you!”
Right then a crack formed in the layer of sediment and began to bulge.
“Clark!”
“That’s your real name is?”  Right now only my girlfriend was in the pool but we both had beers.
“My sister called me that then because she was so scarit.  She usually don’t on account of how bad our names are together.”
“So what was it?  A big snake?”
“No.”
“A snapper?”
“No.  The glop moved apart and a gusting smell pushed out.  I learnt later that was methane.  I don’t think I could ever clean a pool again.”
“Well, they aren’t all like that.”
“It doesn’t matter, I’ll be smelling it.”

Advertisements

365 Stories “Vale do Javari”

She wrote into the night.  Music played far off down stairs but she had wandered away sometime ago to a place she referred to as her “writing nook.”  The only sound up here was the swishing of her cat’s tail and the hammering keys.  It was this type of behavior that forced her to quit her job as a teacher.  That’s the way she viewed it, as if she had no choice.  She got into the habit of waiting until midnight to pick up her laptop.  (Habit or when she was called?)  For hours, three at least, her fingers would fly.  She wrote about ancient gods and the powerful spirits who would do their bidding, manifesting and pushing forces here on earth, if they stayed loyal, that is, and they always stayed loyal, (almost).  She wrote about creatures and muses and mythical battles and powers that resided deep in forests and even created a lexicon unique to her stories, it’s own very ancient language.
When she’d awake the next afternoon, after checking her bank account and calculating the dwindling number of months she’s be able to pay rent, she would read what she wrote.  She had no idea how she was doing it.  She’d sometimes forget to feed her cat and he’d get very vocal.  Only half kidding she’d say:
“I only got you to be my muse, anyway.  You need to be fed, too?”
If the cat could answer…
Sometimes what she wrote would chill her.  She read about an ancient force which would sometimes take the shape of a black panther and keep humans from interfering with the natural, deadly order of the jungle.  Sometimes it would manifest as a palpable black wave.  Vale do Javari she called the place this force protected.  A google search proved the place real, and really protected.  She could not remember once ever having heard of it.  How did she know?  She began to loose grip.  She went back to sleep fighting the covers, fighting sleep.  When she awoke it was almost midnight and everything seemed better.  She pushed her cat off the bed, rose and grabbed her computer, and sat typing for the next three hours.

365 Stories “The Walk”

Over the crumb covered sidewalk my feet carried me far.  Hypnotized by rhythm, the steady change of cracks in the sidewalk, counting steps and getting lost.  I walked by a man: dark skin, dreadlocks, baggy clothes, headphones.  We avoided locking glances, said nothing to each other, but I snuck an observing glance before the moment we became close enough to pass each other.  On his black tee shirt, a record which held a galaxy of constellations.  His head phones blocked out the world.

Passing by him, and in his wake, I heard nothing, yet a feeling of calm washed over me.  I knew I was, momentarily, in the presence of music.  Walking, humanified, music brought to life.  I really didn’t know, couldn’t know for sure he wasn’t a deity, oozing peace and healing with a twinge of excitement and heart ache.   How could anything but music have that effect?  Suddenly this young man seemed so wise, timeless, and gently powerful.

I had been staring so I turned back toward home and almost ran into Humanity.  My first thought was I didn’t want to make contact with this blue haired old woman in a house dress and clogs, scurrying across the street holding a bowl of what looked like tuna fish and puke stew in a small colorful bowl.  She looked haggard.  A little undone.  The home she hurried to presented a weed infested lawn and as she ducked behind shrubbery I could hear her talking.  A mangy tomcat slinked out from under the hedges and circled back for the tastiest puke on the planet, to him anyway.  Squirrels hung upside down from birdfeeders, having already ate the peanuts she left.  A lone hummingbird, rare to see even one in these parts, hovered over a gaudy flower shaped feeder full of sugar water.  His heart will give out shortly.  Hummingbirds don’t last long.

I looked back down the sidewalk, now weary, now worried I would not make it home.  I could no longer see music.  If I listened closely though, I could hear humming coming from somewhere behind the shrubbery.    A long meowing howl rose up to the air, too meek to make it very far.

365 Stories Stay True?

I am sitting in the backyard at dusk, my back against the chain link fence, my legs crossed at the ankles, facing the house.  My home.  The fire’s glow echoes the glow from the third floor window.  I can see clearly inside, the woodgrain on the closet door.  Bricks scatter inside one raised bed, the Spring’s planting not yet complete.  The Spring’s yard cleaning is not even yet done.
I hear my husband’s voice from inside the garage and can almost see him pacing.  His conversation, shop talk, is drowned out by the lemon meringue and lavender sky.  My lukewarm beer rests, intermittently on the edge of the raised bed.  He is storming through the house looking for me and I’m confused, partly, because I am currently a part of the keyboard clatter and screen glow world and also because I didn’t understand why his voice instantly got far away and muted.  I see him inside the door and yell to him.  He comes back out onto the porch not having realized I was next to the garage the whole time.  Suddenly I’m on the clock.  What he didn’t seem to know was that I was planning on writing for hours.  About the hand sized thorn I found in my flip flop or the cat who hit my leg quickly with her forehead twice last night then ran away.  I suggest he finish his conversation then go put our grandmother to bed and he is not happy.  I relent, and say who ever is done first.  I know I’ll loose this battle because I told him to mend this friendship and maybe this phone call will be the proper patch, and because his words are tense.  He didn’t get the memo that this is the most zen moment of my life, and either way, I don’t want it ruined.  The bats have begun to fly over head and the glow from the house has gotten brighter, not in wattage but by contrast.  I’ll be the one to do it because of that beacon, and because I’m the one who relents.  The temperature drops and the wind whips up the fire.  Telling me to stay true?

To be Honest…

I called out for the next two days because:

My To Do List is full of things I want to write and I don’t want to be bothered with anything else.

To be honest:

Writing is the only thing lately that has kept me sane and my real job, the one I am still responsible to, is truly weighing on me.  It’s just too much to think about.

 

I called out for the next two days because:

An important family member is trying not to be a part of our village and I have to stay home to take care of my grandmother.

To be honest…

She’d be here if she had to but the things she says are so hurtful and delusional.  Every time she “talks with us” we feel the need to do nothing but sleep for days and when we do wake up we wake up muttering all the curses and all the things we really want to say.

 

I called out for the next two days because:

I have yet to have all of this depression and this anxiety disorder diagnosed but regardless of the lack of a doctor’s seal of approval, I can barely cope.  I’m full of anger and my mind is boggled and I can feel my heart hurting like it’s being squeezed and I just need to catch my breath.

To be honest…

It’s not all about this family member, it’s about EVERYTHING.

To be honest, if I had all the time in the world I could never explain how I’m feeling fully to you.

 

I called out for the nest two days because:

I’m just about done anyways.  This is my last year.  I’m only making it to the end to get full retirement.

To be honest…

My heart if torn up over leaving but I’m doing everything I can to make it through these last three months and every other day I don’t think I’ll make it with out just up and quitting now.

To be honest, I want to leave on an upswing, on a powerful, high note.  I want to leave with out any of you knowing why I am really leaving.  We will see how that goes.

 

I’m not coming back next year:

For self care, to get that oil change that is 10 years over 3,000 miles, to make the most of my grandmother’s last years, year, months…?? to try my hand at “being a writer.”

To be honest…

I day dream about it.  About writing all day, about getting my shit together, cleaning out my car, organizing the pictures on my dropbox, about spending time with family, about all the hours that will be spent in my garden, how I can expand it because I will now have the time.  Time!  All the time I will have to eat well, do yoga, get my hair cut, and maybe dyed, take photos and learn to drum.

I feel guilt.  This decision is too clearly the right one.  I was born to teach and my students have been my life for a decade.  It’s now time for me.

 

So blog, I’m back.  I haven’t given up on either the Jekyell or Hyde side of this blog.  I’ll let you decide which is which.

There’s is much I’d like to share/process/record for posterity about my now closer to last 45 days.  I’m not keeping track anymore but we are getting down to the wire.  Maybe something I can share can help a teacher or two out there – or at least be slightly amazing to read – I think what goes on at my school and what teachers and our students achieve and overcome on a daily is quite amazing.

I also have not given up on the 365 stories but it is clear to me how daunting the task really is.  I’ll be back at it soon, maybe even today!

For many of the reasons listed above it has been really hard for me to update this blog, BUT I have been doing a better job of posting on my OTHER blog.  Please check it out, I’m pretty proud of it.

transcribingmemory.com

pgy5hZn9LYGIXX8W8Xp8inRDVNiubO0vQqc-AcxTJR0.jpg

Last 90 days Day 9 The things you find out through facebook

“Police Department Arrests Three violent fugitives.”  This post came up on my feed yesterday.  I knew what it was going to be right away and I could see three mug shots but I didn’t recognize a face.  This was posted by one of the few former students I have as a friend on FB and I scan up to the top of the post and see she has written: “ben :,(”  I read the article and it all clicks, but not until I read the first and last name then look again at the picture.  Yes, the largest picture in the photo array was a student of mine maybe only as few as two or three years ago but I didn’t recognize his face.  Clearly he has been through a lot and it has changed him.  And there are quite a few charges…

Ben… age 19…
…was wanted for violent crime…on 02/01/2016. …was wanted for Assault in the First Degree, Possession of Marijuana With Intent to Distribute, Possession of a Firearm and Carrying a Firearm.
The detectives found..and also seized a semi-automatic handgun under the suspects mattress. The gun was reported stolen last year in Holyoke.
charges ..
a) Fugitive From Justice
b) Receiving Stolen Firearm
c) Carrying a Firearm
d) Possession of Ammo
e) Improper Storage of Firearm

 

If I am going to be honest, I don’t care about the weed charge, but the rest of it leaves me not knowing how to feel.

I’m glad he’s been arrested.  I don’t want anyone else hurt and I don’t want him hurt.  I hope he can get some help through the system, maybe he can at least learn a lesson.  I don’t condone anything he did but I also don’t want him dead.  He’s not a throw away person, none of my students have been.

But I can’t help but think  – what a knucklehead – ran from the law and was found at his recorded address?  He just went home thinking he wouldn’t get caught?  This is the disease of adolescence, thinking you can’t be touched, bad things can’t happen to you.

But I can’t help but think – how does he think it’s okay to hurt people?  Who did he assault and why?  Was he that cold?  What were the guns for?  What was his plan?  This was a child I had in my classes in front of me and I remember butting heads with him, there was a time or two he was kicked out of class and I don’t remember if I passed or failed him, but he wasn’t bad in front of me.  He wasn’t hurtful to his classmates, he was moderately respectful to me.  I can remember at times getting him to crack a smile  when I used goofy humor as my way to both redirect behavior of his and connect to him and connect him to the work.  He’d have his wall up then I could get him to break into a smile and soften.

And here he is, only 19 and he’ll spend some time in jail.  I don’t know what difficulties he has gone through, what anger he carried around, or fear, that caused him to make consistently bad choices.  I don’t know how his life has hardened him so he cannot have the same compassion I do.  I don’t wish any of it for him and I wish things could be different.

I want to reach out to the former student who posted that feed and tell her that her sadness for him, for a loosing a friend, is justified even though he hurt others and made his choices.  It wasn’t her choice to loose a friend this way.

I wonder what they think.  Sometimes I’m trying to get a kid “to care,”  “to get invested in his future” and I know I just don’t get it.  I had a safe, warm, full bellied childhood.  One where, most importantly, I was told I could do anything and I saw almost no death.  People around me grew up and chose a future for themselves.

Instead of what I saw growing up, they see their peers die.  These kids know more dead people at their age then I know now and a lot of them were young when they died.  Their friends get shot in gang wars that they are either caught up in or they are simply a random victim, sometimes they are there, at the New Year’s Eve party, or simply walking down the street, they live in the same neighborhood.  Sometimes its a student’s young nephew that is murdered and she knows his life and the life of her sister who did the crime is forever ruined.

I think for them it must be hard sometimes to plan for a future they just have no faith in.  The chances of them dying young or ending up in jail is pretty strong.

When I open my eyes and I really look, I see that attitude in some kids.  They love “yolo” because sometimes the consequences are only going to be harsh for them no matter what they try to do with their very limited resources.  But if I open my eyes I also have to see the kids that are planning on a future, damned be anything that stands in their way or they simply plod ahead, keeping their chins up, day by day.  The very fact that they keep going with what they are faced with, despite their flaws, the way they still show such kindness and compassion even thought they are afraid it is a weakness that will be exploited, they wont let it be snuffed out of them.

I work where I work for the Bens and for his friends who will mourn his life wasted, for the students that will buck the system every step of the way and fail my class and maybe drop out, for the students who enter our IB program and go away to college to “do great things” and our students who face onslaught and keep going.  The population I work with is beautiful and they deserve teachers who understand and respect and sometimes even revere them.

I’m writing this blog and calling it “The Last 90 Days” but I grapple endlessly and every day with the decision.  Every time I’m faced with the hardest days, finding out I shared my classroom with in a gun toting criminal, or managing emotions on a day that starts with a student being in a severe car accident, or loosing it in tears in the hallway after hearing the most tragic and faith-in-humanity-loosing story from one of my students, I second guess leaving.  I know these students need and deserve me.  They need about fifty of me.  And my breed of teacher is dying like flies.

Can I stay another year in these trenches, helping people I really care about?  And help my family?  And myself?  And follow my writing where ever it will lead me?

I know it’s not them I want to leave.  If only things were different…If being a caretaker were simpler, if I could do my job without being over swept with inane policies that don’t help my students, cause more workload and stress for me, and often are even counter productive to my students all in the name of me proving I’m a good teacher and providing data…

But it’s not.  It all is what it is.  Can I do another year???

Last90days Day 8 “Blue Lights”

On my way to school today I was processing an idea about a post connecting an episode of Fear the Walking Dead to how teachers process in the classroom after or while all hell is breaking loose today.

And then this morning happened and I was given all the signs but still got sideswiped.  …That might not have been an appropriate metaphor.

Getting to school this morning I see blue lights at the corner – Burger King – and we know that’s never good.  I assume it’s a fight and hope my students aren’t being the biggest of knuckle heads and I hope all of them are alright.

bluelights

I pop into my next door neighbor’s room and almost immediately there is a cracking noise for a moment or two before we hear our principal’s voice on the intercom.  “Breakfast is going to be extended this morning and there will be no homeroom.”

We chat for a minute then my neighbor on the other side comes in and she says a student’s name and I don’t catch it all at once because the intercom comes on again, something about an accident and busses not being able to get into the school.

Then Ms. H. explains further, one of our students got hit by a car.  She was hurt pretty severely.  I tear up – my immediate go to, but I didn’t even know this student.  I get my big girl panties on and try to do all the things I know I should do.  She had this student so I ask if she is alright.  Then some students come in and one boy I know really well is loosing his shit.  He claims to have seen her on the pavement and is angry at the man driving the car because he tried to flee.

“I woulda popped him if…she’s lying on the ground and her arm I all bent the wrong way, her leg and her neck broken, blood on the ground.”  Ms. R tries to comfort with a compliment about his kindness and the balance it will hopefully create and I offer my room if he needs to come cool off at any point during the day.  He decides to take a walk and Ms. H. goes back to her room and Ms. R. and I stand in the hallway and she asks me what the proper way to handle this is.

I talk a good game to her.  Last year my mentor left the district because she moved and I knew I was going to need to step up from mentee to mentor – about time 10 years later – but I realized today I still have no fucking idea.  She currently has a class with this student – they just began at the new semester – but she will be in a room full of the students who were in class with her.  I didn’t realize she also knew this student and has her in class now.  That’s different.

My plan today is to run class as normal unless there are eruptions or if my students are just not buying in today.  I want to keep it as routine as possible to give them a sense or normalcy and a place to escape talking about it if they need to because that is all they will hear about today.  If they need to talk I am also going to open up the conversation and let them vent and be patient with disruptive behaviors today.  If my students need it we are going to watch videos all class.

I hope my colleagues understand today certain things.  I hope they don’t shut down and dismiss conversations about this girl and the accident.  They need to know their feelings matter and they need to be sent the message that this student matters.  I also hope they handle disruptions well today.  We can be stressed by these things too and not know how to handle them.  I hope we step up today.

I have “prep” first block and don’t have a class but my “Block Two” is about to come in my door.  I want this show to get on the road sooner rather than later…

Last 90 Days day 4 So how DID my shows go? Part One

OcqfFsx5XAHYdE_78IL0Ojwp8T-Y5Y2eLaOWv6OMdB8

I had four classes participate and “Block One” and “Block Three” went the first week.  I hate to say it, but they were a disappointment as far as “good theatre” goes.  In both cases it mostly rested on the actor in each class who played the male lead.  They both did not learn their lines although I was pretty gullible at first thinking they would come through for me.  There were a lot of freezes and scenes ending early and scenes we had rehearsed and had spent so much time on that got skipped over.  My chorus was meek and forgot their lines and barely made a presence for themselves.  The mood they were supposed to bring to the show was not brought.

I made a mistake for the first show and let it slip out of my mouth.  “What did you really think of it Miss?”  they asked in a tone which showed me they were unhappy, too.  “It…wasn’t good.”  I will forever regret saying that because after I thought about it and realized that it wasn’t true, I could never take it back.  I was let down by only one actor.  Other actors really came through for me and did excellent even though many scenes were messed up by one performer not knowing his lines.  I felt bad for them that it was so awkward and that the show did not show their full potential that I saw in rehearsals.  That answer to them, however, was all nerves.  There is a lot of pressure and hopes you put into your mind and when it doesn’t turn out as you imagined and hoped, it hard to see all the good of it.  I did take it back as best I could and told them I was proud of them and told them specific feedback from myself and from audience members about what went well.

I needed in that moment to remember all that I always tell myself.  A lot of moving parts and little pieces and layers and layers go into a performance.  These actors didn’t want to act and were brand new, all of them, to the process.  They put a lot of pieces together and fought great nerves to go out there and do it.

Just because all of the pieces didn’t come together – which is what it takes for a good show – doesn’t mean they didn’t achieve great things.

I also had to remind myself of the purpose of having them do this.  There are many skills to learn, reading comprehension, speaking and public speaking skills, working as a group, taking a challenging project that takes a long time to do and maintaining focus, hope, and keeping up the hard work.  They were given a challenge and told to work together and I know it was one piece closer to knowing that they can do a big task the next time they are given such a big project.  They built confidence and skills.  As an extra, several of them learned a love of theatre and they are now addicted!  Looking back on it it was really all I could have hoped for and more!

Last 90 Days Day 3 How did your show go?

I’ll tell you, during show week, that question, or the question, how are your shows going? is not asked enough.  Just let me explain – nothing else matters when you are directing a show.

forblog1

Here are the top eight things you need to know about a director the week of her show:

  1.  I am fully prepared for and terrified that everything is about to come crashing on my head at any moment.
  2. There are an insane amount of small details – safety pins, need another role of tape, announcements, emails, fixing that prop that broke bringing your own shoes because a cast member doesn’t have the right ones, food for the cast, tickets, play bills printed and folded, where is the fake fruit??!!, is the fake blood in place…and all of these details have to be finished while still working and rehearsing.  So when exactly?
  3. Every human reacts differently under pressure – are my actors going to do what they need to do?  Are they going to crack?
  4. My actors will not know their lines and that will be very stressful for me.
  5. Every director secretly wishes this:  Could all other adult humans not share their problems with me this week?  Only tell me if you have an offer of help!
  6. And this:  Don’t ask me to do even the smallest favor.  Ask me next week.  I have no time for you this week!
  7. If you are talking with a director who is a teacher in a school – we usually have few if any people to help us.  There is often – and certainly in my case – no co director, no tech director, I’ve never had a stage manager because I haven’t had the time to train a young person how to do it, no props manager, no set designer, no costumer designer, no house manager… we do it sometimes all ourselves!
  8. I will forget everything.  Your names no longer matter – just listen when I say “This one” and point at you.

365 Stories #25 The Meeting, The Draw

Pulled up a chair in our library wiling to get to work and placed feet up on a shelf sturdy enough to hold my feet and tomes larger than my face.  Creating Killer Websites, and The Oxford Book of Death I could ignore.  The bottom row contained mythology and I fought off the urge, until my eyes landed on Bulfinch’s Mythology, upside down. I rescued it, opened the cover, and the font was sepia and the pages cream.  The first chapter: Prometheus and Pandora, alpha and omega.  Admetus and Alcestis, Cyclopses, Circe, and Sirens.  I could never resist the call of alliteration.  Nearly a thousand pages rife with the diversity of white europeans, Greek, Roman, French, British, as if they were the only ones to ever tell campfire stories of their creation.  Wait!  There are a few others here, Hindu and Egyptian myths sprinkled into the white cannon.  Lists of names I know and hundreds of pages of names only a faint shadow in my memory and ones lurking completely unseen inside those shadows.  References to Milton and Ovid, I could read these near thousand pages and be led to a thousand other books.
There are Sphinxes to devour me and Medusa to turn me to stone.  Knights to defend me and an oracle to show me the way.  I’m still trapped in the table of contents when the librarian comes by to tell me the shop is closing.
“Hey, do you wanna give me this book?”  I couldn’t believe I asked this librarian acquaintance such a question yet he made it happen.  Before I understood, I was walking home with it under my arm.
Back to the table of contents, thirteen pages for The Trojan War and seven for Troy’s fall.  One for Beowulf.  Four for Merlin but six for Arthur, then six more when continued.  The Lady of the Fountain, however, continued twice.  What decisions went into relegating one myth to a page and another to three chapters?
There contained in the pages were maps indicating Jason’s quest for the Golden fleece and where Hades lie.  If this book were not mass produced it would be illuminated.  No matter, it has it’s magnetism.