Current/Recent Reading List

26 April 2007

Because Life Is Worthwhile

That is the best answer I've ever come up with (shamelessly lifted from an essay by Roger Scruton)to the question, "Why are we even reading this crap anyway?", which is usually followed by "How is this going to help me in life? This won't help me get a job."

Sometimes I'm spared having to point out why we read and study literature. With my absolute WORST COLLECTION OF STUDENTS EVER!!! in second period today we finished Of Mice and Men. For once all the wiseacre and immature boys were quiet, and the couple of complainer girls were as well. They wanted me to read the last chapter to them, and of course it is quite a doozy. Without overdoing it, I tried to read Lenny and George "in character", though in the spirit of muted suspense with which the chapter is written. And in the middle of it, to my surprise, I almost got choked up right there in front of everyone - I had to strain to keep reading with composure, something that has maybe only happened to me once or twice before.

When we finished discussing the last lines of the book, we took a water/bathroom break. And afterwards, there in the hallway, lingered a group of my girls, actually talking - spontaneously! - about the book, and about how they were fighting back tears at the end of it. I could tell that they were excited about the book, and they didn't, just yet, want to leave the fictional world they had allowed themselves to enter. I said very little, because what, after all, could I possibly add to that?

23 April 2007

Yeah, The Wai-yayyy-ting Is The Hardest Part.

Knicks and knacks from the past week:

1. Last Thursday was the most fun I've ever had at an interview of any kind. I spent over an hour speaking with a principal, an assistant principal, and two English teachers, and then almost another hour being taken on a school tour. I'm pretty convinced this would be a wonderful fit, and that they liked me a lot. But I've had that feeling before in life (girls, jobs, etc.), only to have hopes dashed. So, should I be excited? Should I be patient? Should I stop annoying my wife with incessant fretting over when, or if, the offer might come?

Uh, definite "no" on that last one.

2. During yearbook class on Friday, we discovered that a nice Mac computer mouse was missing. Upon searching, we discovered that it had been severed and then squirreled away behind a hard drive unit. I knew the probable candidate for this vandalism, and informed the principal. About thirty minutes later I was called to his office, where I saw Suspect #1, surrounded by two administrators and our school's sheriff's deputy. They asked me a simple question, and my answer apparently contradicted that of our little convict. As I left the office, and turned left down the hall, I heard a ruckus and looked behind me. The kid was rushing out of the school building, with Principal Goldberg in close pursuit. I heard him scream, "You better just leave me alone!" in an almost girly high-pitched voice, and then he apparently got in his car and just left. Gee, think he was guilty?

Incidentally, he is now suspended, and will be made to pay for the damages. But frankly, should I have to even see this kid the rest of the semester? It will be hard to stomach having him in my classroom anymore.

3. After school Friday, I sat patiently with the mother of the senior who was killed in the gunfire incident on Labor Day weekend. She was giving me cherished photos to scan and put on a dedication page in the yearbook. I can only report my admiration for her composure and dignity. Lord knows such an occasion had to hurt like hell, but she was so easy to deal with, and seemed serene, really. How many of us would fall off in the other direction?

4. Just a reminder that I really want the job at this other school, which is not only closer to home, BUT SEEMS LIKE SUCH A COOL PLACE. COOL, I SAY! COOOOOOL!

Not that I'm obsessing.

5. We are two games down in my son's first year of tee-ball, and in four at bats he has hit the ball fair, off the coach's pitch, all four times (after three unsuccessful swings the batting tee comes out). He also fielded a ground ball that came to him in left field and proceeded to run it all the way in to home plate just in time to tag out the base runner; their collision, while not violent, did knock the runner down.

O.k., in most levels of baseball, that is not the most efficient way to get an out. Fortunately, in tee-ball, it probably is. But as I was getting excited and trying to figure out if he would beat the runner home or not, I realized that he was chasing down the only girl on the field - a little girl that a couple of plays earlier was so excited to make contact with her bat she turned to her parents in gleeful surprise, rather than running to first base.

So there you have it - my son knocked down the girl and prevented her from doing the one thing all tee-ballers want to do the most: cross home plate. The little misogynist.

16 April 2007

Awkward Moment #273

You may remember that a couple of weeks ago I attended my home county's job fair, and spoke at length with representatives from a couple of schools about openings. One of these representatives, an assistant principal, used to teach at my school and administrate in my school system. We talked about several common acquaintances we had - sort of like catching up on old times, except with a complete stranger.

Well, turns out I have an interview with said school on Thursday. Today at about 2:55, the former baseball coach/gym teacher/current driving instructor/local legend (and father of our current basketball coach/gym teacher), ambles into my room and, in the presence of two students (luckily the rest were out on yearbook errands!), the following proceeds:

"Hey there young fella!"

"Oh, hey Coach! How are you, sir?"
"Good. Good. So I hear you spoke to someone about a position at _____________ High School. Don't you live near there."

(I'm turning red and trying to figure out how to send these two students out of the room-but-dammit-it's-too-late-and-now-the-whole-world-might-find-out!)

"Uh... uh... yeah I sure do."

"You spoke with my cousin up there - she's an assistant principal."

"Oh... yeah. You must mean Mrs. ________. I knew she was from down here. So she's your cousin, huh? I do remember her asking if I knew you."

"Yep. She was asking me about you, and I put the good word in for you. That's a good high school - a big high school - but a good one. You'd like it."

"Well thanks Coach. I certainly appreciate that."

He left, and I returned to the awkward position of waiting for the bell to ring and pretending, while the students were still there, that the past two minutes never happened.

The world, it be small.

13 April 2007

Life is a Beach

A couple of weeks ago, our health occupations teacher, a portly, somewhat gruff woman in her forties who is a registered nurse, plopped down in the teacher's lounge at lunch and declared her frustration with hearing her junior and senior girls talk about nothing but where they were staying with their boyfriends when they went to the beach over spring break, or how skimpy their bikinis were going to be, or how many times they needed to get to the tanning booth before then. "You know what I want to say to them?" she asked. "I want to say, 'I hope you screw so much that it tears your asses up! Then maybe you'll come to your senses!'"

Well. I can honestly say that livened up our lunch, but aside from that her point was noted as one of the main reasons why the time approaching spring break is such a difficult one to work in. You see, because our part of the state is only a couple of hours from the beach (at the most), it is easy for the kids to get down to the coast for part, or all of their break. What appalled me when I first started teaching, and still does, is that so many parents let their kids go down there without any supervision. Sometimes the kids stay for a few days, but some stay all week, and they borrow or rent out beach houses, apartments, or hotel rooms. I wasn't allowed to go on an out-of-town trip with friends anywhere until I graduated. But not only do many seniors from my school go, many juniors, sophomores, and freshmen- for God's sake -are right with them.

Just listen in on a conversation or two in the weeks leading to break, and you will hear kids speaking of who they will procure alcohol from, which girls (if boys are talking) they will try to "get with", or where their set-up will be in relation to their friends'.

Where do they get the money for these bacchanal's? What the hell are their parents doing? Why the hell do those in authority at these beach communities allow this to happen (guess I know the answer to that: cha-ching!)

Three years ago, the talk of the school after break was over was the homemade porn one of the senior girls and junior boys made together. I'm not sure she knew a camera was rolling, but lots of kids saw it, and from what I gathered she wore her notoriety as a badge of honor the rest of the semester. Nice, huh?

What I really love is when, periodically, a kid will ask me, "Hey Mr. P? Do you want to go down to the beach with us?"

You know kid, if it were legal for me to force your parents, perhaps at gunpoint, to follow me down there, I might take you up on it.

11 April 2007

Food for Thought

I would just like to point out that there are only five - count 'em, five! - more days until the first annual Food Network Awards show airs. Alas, it has already been filmed, so my idea of taking a road trip to Miami to crash the party (a proposal that landed D.O.A. on the wyfe's ears, btw) won't work this year. But a guy can dream.

And yes, I refuse to hand over my mantle of manliness just because the Food Network has become my "go to channel" when an important football/basketball/baseball game isn't on. This is a recent discovery, brought on by the evolution of our household responsibilities list that has led to my doing about 90% of the evening cooking. For about five months now, I've been taking my cue from the likes of Emeril, Paula Dean, and that freaky spaz Tyler Florence. Of course, my wyfe chalks up the change in viewing habits to the fact that the network features a few babe chefs - particularly a certain chef of Italian heritage. I resent that accusation, of course.

One show I will draw the line at is Iron Chef America, which is way over the top. But it is still better than anything dear wyfe likes to watch on her new preferred channel, the Chiller Network.

09 April 2007

Sad Day

This wasn't the way I wanted to begin my week of blogging, but I have to report the sad news that we put our dog to sleep this afternoon. If you have been following my wife's blog for the last couple of weeks, you are aware that the dog has been doing poorly. Over the last week she just simply wouldn't eat, and unfortunately she never got the chance to return home after going to the vet's hospital last Tuesday. This morning she had a bad seizure and spit up blood, and so we knew this had to be it.

The experience was difficult, as anyone knows who has had to do the same. There are conflicting emotions, and the irrepressible thought that our lives will now be easier in many ways. Gertie was not an easy pet to deal with, or have patience with, but after seeing her for the last time today and saying goodbye, it strikes me how all the things that were so irritating about her were really just trifles - at least compared to the simple, humbling fact that she shared 13 1/2 years of our lives with us. (Ever thought about what a miracle it is that certain animals can live with you, in your house? Or how odd that is?)

My wife is much more qualified to write a post adequately paying tribute to Gertie, taking into account the dog's virtues and foibles. I'm sure she will write such a post in the next day or two. In the meantime, I will only offer up thanks to God for Gertie's life. Rest in peace, little dog.

08 April 2007

Happy Easter!

In terms of day-to-day operations, my Easter hain't been so hot. It appears that I lost my cell phone somewhere in Winston-Salem over the weekend, and a little while ago I had one of those conversations with my parents that was destined from the start to hit guilt buttons and piss me off. Nice.

Now I find myself pissed that on the most important day of my religion's calendar, a day intended for the highest level of celebration, I've let myself get down in the dumps over such petty matters. But perhaps, in a metaphysically twisted way, this is most appropriate for Easter Day.

I am also, thank God, on spring break, and hopefully my blogging mojo will return this coming week as a result. I've been tired, I've been unmotivated, I've been busy. But this week, dear reader, I intend to bring something to the table daily, whether it be well-executed or not. Please do tune in.

01 April 2007

Are The Times A-Changin'?

Saturday was an absolute whirlwind of activity, which wasn't exactly as it was planned. But oh well. We had a veterinian visit, grocery shopping, the elementary school's Spring Carnival, yard work, some moral support to provide for a friend, cooking, cleaning, and of course, the Final Four to watch. On top of this, I ended up making a late decision to attend the school system job fair in my home county, and spent an hour talking to representatives from three high schools.

Over the last five years, I've done this a couple of times, and I've also resisted doing it a couple of times. As previously noted, I am one of those guys who likes to stay put when I get comfortable, and (partially due to this, I'm sure) also a person who remains loyal beyond what many people would consider their obligations. But, these bigger schools didn't take a chance on me when I was coming in through the alternate licensure route, while my current school did. And, things have worked out very well, for the most part. The last time I attended the local job fair I can truly say my heart was not in it, and this probably showed. No one even called for a follow-up interview.

But Saturday felt different. I have five years of experience in the bag, and I think my interviewers took notice of this, and seemed much more interested in me. Plus, they all knew people that I know in my current school community, so there was the advantage 0f name-dropping without intentionally meaning to. Who knows what will happen, but I felt positive about the whole experience, and...

I didn't feel guilty about it, like I did a couple of years ago. This, in spite of the fact that if were to be offered a better position, and I left my school now, I would be piling on to the giant load of crap that my bosses already have to deal with this spring and summer: we have five teachers retiring, they want to hire an additional English teacher, and I'm convinced Principal Goldberg will fire another one if at all possible (and if he is willing to take a little heat). My leaving would only add to his woes, and I would hate that because I really like him, and like working for him.

Ultimately, though, working closer to home at a better school with better-achieving students (and with a little salary upgrade) would be too much to turn down - unless they tried to make being a coach part of the deal. In any case, I can be happy where I am, so I'm trying to stay as level-headed about all of this as possible. But I'm a little excited about the possibilities between now and next fall.