Current/Recent Reading List

28 June 2007

Travels with Non-Earthlings

Oh. My. God. I just, like, totally got back from Atlantic Beach, where, like, I was at a totally spankin' yearbook workshop with six of my new students that I, like, so just met the same day we drove down there. So, like, I drove three fifteen year olds in my car, and then one of the girl's, like, mom was another chaperone and she totally drove the other kids. Then we had to sit through these classes that lasted, like, FOREVER, for two half-days and one full day, and then we, like, went out to eat at a fish place that was totally the bomb because they sold these t-shirts that were, like, only ten dollars, so the girls, like, all bought shirts and totally couldn't wait to wear them the next day. And two of the girls apparently, like, were talking to these guys by the pool on Tuesday night, and this guy kept telling them his dad, like, was an NFL star who totally owned the hotel and then he texted them later, like, on our ride home, and they called him and said they decided that he, like, was totally lying, and he sooo admitted it. Oh. My. God. So, they're never talking to him again, and one girl had already asked her dad, like, who that football player was and it really was a player, but she said now her dad, like, completely won't believe it when she tells him the guy was lying (and I said, like, "Trust me, he'll believe it.").

So, we're, like, totally back now, and really I'm pretty impressed with, like, these kids even though they were a little whiny at moments about having to, like, do work at a workshop. But really, they were, like, totally respectful of their new teacher who they had, like, never met before, and never caused me, like, any concerns. The only thing is that I have this, like, vague sense that they have, like, rubbed off on me is some way that I totally can't put my finger on, you know? Kluvubye!

23 June 2007


Check out the new look! I figured with all the other changes taking place in my life, I might as well drag the blog along; although the blog, like me, is fundamentally opposed to change. Too bad for the both of us. I think I like the new template, however, but I'll let it settle in a bit and see if I want to make tweaks.

I'm also working on updating my blogroll. I've added some sites, including those of loyal Whining Schoolboy readers, which I've neglected to promote for far too long.

More content coming soon!

19 June 2007

Digging Out, Digging In.

We have successfully returned from our mini-vacation to DC and surrounding parts, and it was a wonderful time. One day I will post about my love for all things George Washington and Mount Vernon (what an outstanding new museum they have just opened there, btw!). But now we are back to normalcy, which is not such a bad thing when my normalcy means back to summer vacation.

However, it is not going to be all play for a while. First, I have to dig out of the crap I've brought home from my school room; this will include sifting through a couple of boxes to determine what I will need for the future, what definitely needs to be thrown out, and what I might squirrel away even though Beloved Wyfe commands me to get rid of it in her all-out assault on house clutter. Plus, I have some unfinished yearbook business (because it is a Fall release book) that I obligated myself to finish, which includes helping the new advisor in the transition process.

I also learned, a couple of weeks ago, that I have other yearbook business to dig into at the same time. Yes, no doubt because of previous experience and being low man on the totem pole, I've been tapped to take over from the retiring yearbook advisor at my new school. In fact, I'm meeting with him for the first time this afternoon, and apparently attending a workshop with him next week.

Yikes. This yearbook is much bigger, and probably a much bigger deal. How intimidated should I be? We'll see. After the workshop next week, I'll further expound on the fascinating (wink, wink) topic of yearbooks, something I know I have heretofore ignored on the blog.

13 June 2007

Strike The Tent

"I think of all the places I have known and that I like to think, perhaps irrationally, have known me. Creatures of time and space that we are, the spaces of our lives are as much a part of who we are as the times of our lives. It is an old Russian custom for one going on a journey to sit quietly for at least five minutes, saying good-bye to the space one is leaving."
-R.J. Neuhaus, As I Lay Dying

A couple of weeks ago I was in a colleague's room and I noticed, on the floor beside his stacks of textbooks, a yellow post-it note with my name on it. It was covered in dust or dirt, and the red ink had already faded a bit. Evidently it was a note to class I had written for someone, and it had found its way to the floor. I was tempted to pick it up and see exactly what I had written, but then thought better of it. Let it stay there, I thought; it will be swept away soon enough as it is.

When you spend five years in any one place, with roughly the same groups of people, your signature - literal and figurative - is bound to be all over the place. You will probably be aware of many of the marks you have made in a certain place, and with certain people; but you can never be sure about others you tried to make, and can be flat out disappointed by your numerous unsuccessful attempts. In any case, you can be sure life will continue, and with time your presence there will be remembered in fewer ways, and by fewer people. You just hope you did the best you could with the time and space you were given, and that somewhere beyond us this is never forgotten.

Today was my last official day at my maddening, loveable little backwoods school. There were no dramatic goodbyes today, no long drawn out remembrances. Everyone was in a hurry to finish their official tasks, have their final meeting with the principal, and clean out their rooms. I went to lunch with my buddies, and though our conversations did touch on changes to come, for me and for them, our talk was mostly the same as usual. In fact, over some outstanding Mexican food, we mostly spent time trading snake stories - something men in the South will always get to if they hang out with each other long enough.

All this is as it should be. My time at the school has been essential to the story of my life, and I hope I have been essential to the stories of my students and friends there. But there are other great teachers for the kids to learn from, and other challenges for us all.

I still have a few yearbook duties to wrap up, so I will have to visit my room a couple more times next week. But before I leave it for good as an employee, I plan, like the proverbial Russian, to sit for a few moments, offer a short prayer, and say goodbye for the last time.

So long, HHS. I love you.

11 June 2007

Devils or Angels?

You know, nothing says graduation night like the smell from a nearby hog plant hanging in the humid June air, while all around joyous graduates celebrate with their families.

Well, that was the scene (and smell) I was greeted with as I emerged from the Agri-Expo. center, located in the seat of my rural school's county. And in a way, this was all so appropriate.

Commencement ceremonies bring a range of emotions and thoughts, but one thing I'm always struck with is the feeling, for once, that all the ugliness, bitter feuds, petty jealousies, and backstabbings have evaporated, and that all the graduates finally, in their moment of glory, get it. As with the past commencements I've witnessed, I had this sense again Friday.

This particular commencement also had a rather dramatic and poignant moment. Probably because the principal begged and pleaded with family members to withhold catcalls, gestures, and cheering until after all the diplomas were handed out (this has been a constant problem in past years), the audience behaved well (with two minor exceptions). Once the diplomas were handed out, the hootin' and hollerin' took place, as usual. But in this venue the graduates' families were all seated behind the student body, staring at their backs. So when it came time to move their tassels, the principal told the graduates to stand, turn around and face their families, and then do the tassel thing. When they faced their families the place erupted, and it was truly moving.

But then there was the other side - the hog stench side. Two of the speeches given by the "top four" contained inappropriate comments that took shots at the school or certain teachers, or mentioned wild parties and trying to leave a toilet in front of the school during spirit week (who checked off on these speeches?). We found out just before the ceremony that one girl had bootlegged copies of a slide show DVD that our sweet secretary makes for the seniors and sells to them for a reasonable cost. And there was the special privilege of watching six unwed mothers cross the stage in one night (I know - at least they graduated).

In the end, frankly, this was a sorry senior class - the sorriest I can remember since I have been at the school. These things fluctuate(next year's class is terrific by comparison), but I hate to say we are foisting this particular group on the world.

On a more positive, and unrelated note, a former student dropped by to say goodbye today and brought me some of her mom's multi-layered chocolate cake. Gotta love southern folk.

09 June 2007

Stolen Moments

Don't you know we're living in stolen moments?
You steal enough it feels like we're stopping time.
These days are gold, we're living in stolen moments.
Just grab a hold...

-John Hiatt, "Stolen Moments"

A friend of mine has a cousin who has been teaching high school English for quite a few years now. I actually observed this teacher as part of a project I had to complete when I was working on my certification. He was fun to watch in action, and his kids obviously loved him. Well, a couple of weeks ago my friend told me that this cousin was considering moving up to a big time position at the state board of education, but that it would kill his kids if he did. "Those kids absolutely worship him! They hang on his every word," my friend said.

That's a slight exaggeration, of course, but I understand what he was saying because I've experienced similar relationships. No more did this hit home than on Thursday, when some of my past and present students threw me a goodbye party right after school. Leaving aside the comical fact that I'm in the red after ordering pizzas for them and not getting completely reimbursed (a teacher's martyrdom is never done), this was a tremendous honor, particularly because it was their idea. Among the things I received was this signed, framed, and matted portrait from some of my sophomores:

Some of the statements read as follows:

"P., I'm going to miss you so much! I love you with all my heart!"

"I will miss you P. You are my favorite teacher!"

"Mr. P., I will most deff. always love our stupid English teacher! Thank you for all you've done for all of us, and for teaching us more than just English. Love always and good luck."

"P., You are the man. Gonna (improper grammar) miss you!"

Of course, the overly emotional girls were crying. One in particular was inconsolable - not the one I would have guessed either (side thought: oh, to have had so many girls crying over me when I was actually in high school! I could have died happy at 18.) The boys were their usual awkward, but funny selves. I was doing my best to bring good cheer to the occasion, and not lose it too much myself.

Frankly, I mostly believe it shouldn't be any other way - if I'm fulfilling my calling correctly, that is. To me, this "student worship" falls in the category of the miraculous, and, on the one hand, it never fails to humble me. But I'll admit, on the other hand, that I crave it. Partially this is a function of the male ego, something we men need to have stroked from time to time. And partially the craving is a function of needing to know that what I believe about teaching - about the nobility of the task - is borne out in reality, making it true.

It has never felt more like the truth than over these last few weeks - weeks full of stolen moments as savory, yet as sad, as any I've lived through.

06 June 2007

Sophisticated Humor

While I was serving as a test proctor during an end-of-course civics exam today, my gaze happened upon the side edge of the teacher's desk, which I was sitting beside. There, I noticed, someone had delicately drawn a small, green penis and scrotum (unattached to a body, so I assume it was a floating green penis/scrotum combo).

You'd think I would take such a thing in stride by now, and I usually do. But for some reason, maybe because everyone was absolutely silent and working hard, I really labored to suppress the giggles that reside in the "still-15 years old" part of my brain.

Not that I'm condoning such drawings...

Plus, it wasn't on my desk.

01 June 2007

MySpace Wars

As the school year winds down, allow me to return to my favorite topic of the destructive capacity MySpace, Facebook, et. al. have when it comes to teens (who already have enough such capacity simply by existing). But let me first introduce our MySpace warriors, to help you keep things straight:

Girl A
Boy A

Girl B

Boy C

Friend D

Miscellaneous Friends Of Whatever Leftover Variables You Choose

O.k., got it? Then here goes.

Once upon a time, Boy A and Girl A dated seriously - far too seriously - for two years. But over the past year, Boy A had an "on the side" hankering for Girl B, who did not discourage the hankering, and in fact made out with Boy A at least once at a party last fall that Girl A did not attend . Well, recently Girl B came back from a senior lake outing with several pictures of herself and Boy A cozying up at the lake, while wearing their bathing suits (bikini in her case). The pictures were posted to her MySpace page. This led to a break-up between Boy A and Girl A, until Boy A, as usual, extricated himself from trouble by begging for forgiveness and blaming the whole matter on Girl B.

So, Girl A took him back, and Girl B did him the favor of taking down the pictures. But for several days, Girl A loudly declared to everyone that Girl B was a slut, slut, slut. She said this so often that Girl B, tired of hearing her name sullied, had a little talk with Boy A. She told him he better shut his little girlfriend up, or she would spill the beans about his pursuit of her over the past year. After a couple more days, Boy A read the writing on the wall, and confessed all to Girl A. This led to another, and final break up with a devastated Girl A.

Enter Friend D, who proceeded to take Girl A under her wing a little and befriend her. Friend D's boyfriend, it turns out, has a good buddy (Boy C) who is currently available, and kind of has the hots for Girl A. Girl A and this Boy C do not start dating yet, but do start talking often and hanging out. Problem is, this is a boy that Girl B has wanted for her own for a couple of years, but has had no success with. Girl A knows this, and even though there is no dating situation yet, on her MySpace page, she puts up a couple of pictures of herself hanging out with him (feel the salt in the wound?).

So, on Girl B's MySpace page, the original bombshell pictures reappeared overnight. Friend D has basically been declared persona non grata by Girl B and her posse, though they have all been friends with Friend D since grade school. Among the Miscellaneous Friends who have chosen not to abandon Friend D and are caught in the middle, there has been a noticeable drop in their poll numbers: Girl B has demoted them to further down on her "MyFriends" list on her MySpace page. This is apparently as noticeable a slight as Mr. Darcy's aloofness was early on in Pride and Prejudice.

My Male Bonding Buddy tells me next year he's going to walk around with a large hour glass so he can be ready on cue to declare, "Like sands through the hour glass, so are the days of our lives!"