It is my twentieth year of teaching, and I shall share my accumulated wisdom with you now.
First, popping into colleagues’ classrooms and telling them to hold off on starting their lessons because there will be a fire drill momentarily is an indisputably hilarious April Fools’ joke.
Second … well. This one is so important it shall be told in parable. Rise up, gather round.
Once there was a teacher who, at day’s end, had students put their chairs on their desks. But they did this so noisily – indeed, some even took delight in slamming chairs down – that it sounded like Kursk 2.
Increasingly distressed, he finally bade them leave the chairs floored, that he alone might raise them.
He did this for weeks and months. And then one day he checked out his biceps and was all: whoa.
Now every morning he takes down the chairs, and every afternoon he puts them up. He does this with one arm, alternating, curling them as they were weights. His physique ever approaches that of Adonis.
Years ago I spent some time in Central Africa. I had a shortwave radio, but it was too complicated for me to figure out, and reception wasn’t always that great, so I’d listen to whatever I could pick up. That’s how I learned to dread Voice of America’s Special English. It was like being stuck in a Bob and Ray routine. Two decades later I find myself thankful for its existence.
Before winter break I had my students read VOA’s abridged version of “The Gift of the Magi,” perfect for English learners. (Seriously: the first few paragraphs of the original are crammed with highfalutin vocabulary.) It’s part of their American Stories series, which offers a canonical sampler, if apparently filtered by expired copyright.
Now, I consider myself passingly acquainted with the literature of my homeland. If you were to demand my immodesty, I would even confess having contributed thereto. But I’ve read only two stories on that list, and “The Gift of the Magi” is one of them. And: Fitz-James O’Brien? Hamlin Garland? Never heard of them. Sheesh.
My one-man book club’s 2019 reading list is shaping up. Yes, I’ll read the unabridged versions.
After Tuesday, Gentle Reader, your attempted expiry in my presence may be less unwise. I’m going for my third CPR training.
The first, about a decade ago, I made a hash of. I couldn’t keep anything straight. The instructor was very nice about it, and easily forgiven if he went home thinking the problem with education in America was idiots like me.
The second time, a few years later, was at the NICU. It was an exit interview of sorts with a nurse who ran through various scenarios with a little fake baby. I don’t remember much; it mostly scared the daylights out of me.
Around the time of my first CPR training, I had a week of jury duty. After the jurors had been selected, a court officer gave us a talk about what to do the next day. This is what happened:
Last year, each Friday, I taught a double block of Science class. Early on it became apparent that if our sanities were to be maintained, the students and I would have to find something active and engaging to do.
I put a request on DonorsChoose for some engineering kits. And on Giving Tuesday, a local comic book store stepped up and paid for the whole thing, over five hundred dollars’ worth. For the rest of the year, double block was a joy. The kids were totally into it, as was I.
Thank you, Hub Comics, for making our lives a lot better.
This Friday (and thereafter), Gentle Reader, shop there!
In Science I teach that Earth has been around for a long time, and in Ancient Civilizations I teach that humanity has been around for a long time.
Monday I’m taking the latter class out to the football field to recreate this video, that they might see which has existed longer:
Well, it really puts perspective on things though, doesn’t it?
One of humanity’s better endeavors has been putting up those little free library boxes. There’s one at the playground, and I never cease to marvel at the volumes that find their way in. Last week I picked up The Timetables of History.
The early 500s music scene wasn’t much, apparently:
I get ill all the time, but no one wants to hear about that.
– Paul Theroux
I was in Dick’s Sporting Goods recently and found myself laughing in the aisle. Twin 2, who has begun to suspect her father is unusual, asked what was so funny.
“They’re playing a silly song,” I told her.
For on the PA system was Run-DMC’s “You Be Illin’,” which contains one of balladry’s more lamentable parables:
Dinner, you ate it, there is none left It was salty – with butter – and it was def. You proceeded to eat it ’cause you was in the mood But homes you did not read: it was a can of dog food!
This in turn was the Alpo madeleine of a memory from college. I had gone to a department office to drop off a paper. How I laughed at the sign on the door:
Closed Due to Illness
Now then. Your help, if I may: would you please let me know what’s your favorite idiom?
One of my resolutions is to teach my students an idiom a week.
My favorite is “barking up the wrong tree.” That combination of ardor and error – I do believe it captures something essential about la condition humaine. (Don’t worry, I just tell the kids it means you’re mistaken.)
NB a previous colleague left a book filled with pages of idioms, more than I can teach, so I don’t need suggestions – rather, I want your favorite one.
PS it does not go without saying – there are scoundrels among you – that I request your favorite idiom appropriate for children.
I had just spent five years in graduate school, a statement that may mean nothing to people who never served such a stretch; it is the explanation, nonetheless. I’m not sure I can give you the remotest idea of what graduate school is like. Nobody ever has. Millions of Americans now go to graduate schools, but just say the phrase—”graduate school”—and what picture leaps into the brain? No picture, not even a blur. Half the people I knew in graduate school were going to write a novel about it. I thought about it myself. No one ever wrote such a book, as far as I know. Everyone used to sniff the air. How morbid! How poisonous! Nothing else like it in the world! But the subject always defeated them. It defied literary exploitation. Such a novel would be a study of frustration, but a form of frustration so exquisite, so ineffable, nobody could describe it. Try to imagine the worst part of the worst Antonioni movie you ever saw, or reading Mr. Sammler’s Planet at one sitting, or just reading it, or being locked inside a Seaboard Railroad roomette, sixteen miles from Gainesville, Florida, heading north on the Miami-to-New York run, with no water and the radiator turning red in an amok psychotic over boil, and George McGovern sitting beside you telling you his philosophy of government. That will give you the general atmosphere.