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Putting Feelings Aside

My work week began at 5:36 AM Monday morning. I quickly turned off the alarm (I don’t think I have ever hit snooze in my life) and arose. As I walked to the bus 16 minutes later, I had a headache and felt groggy. For a moment, I thought it was Friday.

Three straight 5 hour nights later, and my long week is nearly over. This is my first 5 day work week in nearly a month, so I can’t complain. Well, of course, I can, but I don’t like complaining. I don’t even like hearing myself complain, so what’s the point?

Grades were due today. The first marking period is always rough. It includes less days, I take off days to celebrate the holidays, and the first few days are all about paperwork and diagnostics. Inevitably, there is a logjam of work at the end of the term.

To be blunt: my pass rate sucked! Students did not get the work done despite my extensions, pleadings, and phone calls. I am disappointed, frustrated, and annoyed. I can come up with many reasons why the students did not hand in their work. Ultimately, that is not comforting.

There is an old saying that if you reach one child then you are doing your job. It is a depressing saying and any teacher that cares would be disappointed with those types of results. I am more than confident that I have reached multiple students. It’s pretty easy to see when students want to hang out in your classroom just because that they feel comfortable. Still, it does not feel like enough. I am nearly certain that the school administration is not going to be content with that level of success either.

I can continue feeling bad, guilty, and complaining. However, I don’t want to. It’s not fair to me, my family, or my friends. I will put away the negative feelings (as best I can) and strive to enjoy my life. I don’t want to let the disappointment in one part of my life poison the other parts of my life. It is not easy to do – I am not talking about widgets here – but kids with families that love them and want the best for them.

Today as I walked to the subway, I enjoyed the beautiful weather. When October brings such a gorgeous day, it must be appreciated. Who knows how many more are left in the season?

So, you see I am learning a lesson from my students. They take bad news and seem bothered till the bell rings. At that point, they go through the halls slapping hands, talking, and laughing with their friends. In other words, they know how to put their feelings aside and enjoy the moment.

We all will worry about it till tomorrow.

I am looking forward to enjoying the night with my wife and kids.

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Posted by on October 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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This Should Not Be Happening

I owned recess time. I was a star. In elementary school, recess meant sports. Depending upon the season and mood, my friends and I played football, basketball, baseball, or wall ball. I was captain, quarterback, etc. It felt good. I was not shy on the field/court.  My upbringing as the youngest of four boys in a sports-crazed family served me well.

Then, things changed.

As third and fourth grade came around, girls came into the picture. And things got confusing. And awkward. By the time of the graduation trip in sixth grade, one of my best friends had a girlfriend. Did they kiss? I dunno know.  Couldn’t we just focus on sports? Why talk or consider something other than sports?  I understood it, reveled in it, etc. There were girls I liked and those who liked me. I guess. I had no idea how to express such an interest. I was not ready.

By the time I got to high school, some things had changed. Unfortunately, some things had not. I was still awkward and shy. I had a crush on a girl – Shannon – who was in 10th grade when I was in 9th. An older woman. Anyway, we had algebra together, and I sat right behind her.  I used to space out and dream of her. My dreams did not get much beyond holding her. Sometimes, I would find myself wandering behind her in the hallways. No, I was not creepy. Anyway, I never did have much conversation with her, though I did enjoy a friendly relationship with the girl next to her.

I lost out because I was unable to overcome my shyness.

This past week I returned to the high school where I work. The inner city high school is located in East New York Brooklyn. It was nice to see some of my colleagues and catch up on families, summer activities, and gossip. However, the talk was much more than I expected. One of my colleagues informed me about the passing of a student who would have been in the 10th grade.

While I did not know the student, I was terribly saddened. I was informed that he was shot, gang style. Someone knocked on his door and shot him in the head. He lingered in a coma for a month before succumbing to death.

Why? Why did this terrible thing happen? Why are kids killing each other? Someone said it was over a girl. Are you kidding me? At 14, kids kill each other over a girl?  What kind of relationship can a 14-year-old have? This is not Romeo and Juliet (who did not have much of a relationship either, by the way). Did he make a pass at a girl who was “taken”?  Does it matter?

I’m sure there’s a middle ground here somewhere, between me – too shy to have a real conversation with a girl – and those who would shoot someone because he got in the way of a ‘relationship’.

A dead boy, a grieving mother – this should not be happening.

 
39 Comments

Posted by on September 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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On the Binder

Do you recall having loose leaf binders in school? I remember having a blue cloth loose leaf binder. I got my first one in 4th grade. I liked the different sections, the yellow dividers, and the inevitable reinforcements. However, what I liked most about having a loose leaf was that I could doodle on the cover. Whether its flowers and hearts or monsters and trucks, I think you can learn a lot about someone if you look at their doodles.

Well, if somehow my old loose leaf binders could be resurrected, they would confirm that I was a sports lunatic. I used to draw these rectangles which I envisioned as banners hanging from the rafters. This is where the elite athletes would have their names one day. However, the day came a little early for those I chose from among the stars of the Philadelphia teams of my youth – Clarke, Barber, Montgomery, Carmichael, Erving, Toney, Carlton, and Schmidt.

I put these players and many others on a pedestal. I looked up to them and imagined what it would be like to meet them. They were more than athletes I saw on television. I felt as if I knew them. I see my high school students do the same thing today. They are completely obsessed with particular players – Lebron James could have a thriving fan club just comprising the students I had last year.

In the years since my early ‘doodles’, I’ve realized that I did not know where to ‘draw the line’ – pun intended. Being a professional athlete means that an individual has been blessed with great skill which he or she has honed through hours upon hours of practice. It does not mean the athlete is a good person. It does not mean that I know the athlete because I have seen them perform their sport. I do not know them, and I have no true understanding of the type of person he/she is.

I want my boys to enjoy sports. Enjoying and partaking in sports is good exercise and a great way for children to bond. However, I do not want my boys to obsess over sports and blur the lines between a star on the field of play and a wonderful person in the game of life.

Respecting and admiring the athlete for his/her talents is fine. However, I also want my children to respect the policeman who puts his life on the line, the fireman who saves others, the military man who protects the country, the teacher who enables children, the entrepreneur who seeks to make things better, the scientist who tries to find a cure, the doctor who helps people to feel better, the religious figure who gives guidance, etc.

The point is everyone who works hard, shows care for others, strives to better himself/herself is deserving of respect. No one – particularly someone you don’t know – should be idolized. When it comes to worship, you should look above for inspiration and not around.

When my children get their first loose leaf binder, they will surely come to doodle on it at some point. As they consider what to doodle on their book, I hope that they will go beyond my options.

PS. I wrote a newspaper article about the Penn State situation that is related to this. Here’s the link: http://www.northjersey.com/news/opinions/163267936_What_to_do_when_idol_is_shown_to_have_feet_of_clay.html?page=all

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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