We Will Meet Again Somehow

Slice 31

Poof – like that, it’s over for another year. Once again I marveled at so many writers and their abilities which stretch far beyond my own. It’s just like at work. This is one area in which I am humbled daily. In some corners of the world (or our community) we can get such a bad rap and if my building is home to many many marvelous wizards teaching children everyday for almost no money, extrapolating that out to the rest of my community, and beyond, staggers the imagination. I am but a tiny fish in a massive, underappreciated ecosystem and I really hope to learn from everyone I can, as much as I can.

As always I wrote whatever came to mind that day and, as always, I got my thoughts a little jumbled, I did my jiggy tangent dance all over the page, and vomited it out for public consumption. Then I’d go on to read other slicers and notice all the ways everyone is better than me at being concise, and creating large ideas from small moments – painting verbal pictures for me, the reader, with such precision and easy strength. Whereas, for the most part, my writing mind went right to the dummy depths and filled my slices with all the kicked up sludge that doesn’t seem to fit on the rectangle of thought that everyone else seemed to organize so nicely. 

And that’s not to say, at all, that what I was reading wasn’t deep. Goodness, no. I laughed and cried and read some that made me think long after I issued my silly comments of appreciation. There’s just nothing like having something up for comparison to realize one’s own flaws. This isn’t self flagellation for pity’s sake. This is a thank you note. Not just to this year’s slicers but to everyone who helps me be grounded and well-rounded. Or at least makes me want to be. 

And so, yes, it all comes back to me. Haha. The narcissist who doesn’t think much of himself. The earnest dog chasing his tail for a belly rub and a treat. I’m a rollercoaster still. I am aware. I can be the life of a party and I can go an entire day without speaking about myself or how I feel unless prodded, and even then I give it up out of respect for the asker. And I don’t write for me anymore like I grew up doing. I’ve lost lots of myself over the last few years. Some was taken and some was ashes surrendered willingly to the breezes reluctantly lifting them from my possession. I guess the important part there is that I am aware of all of it, even the parts I don’t yet understand. So that’s what March allows me to take back a little and, without really planning on it, I squeeze all of my communication to the world into 31 days. 

I probably need it. So, thank you. We never know what comes next. It is scary on the one hand, but on the other inconsistency has become dependable so I’m always on guard. With that in mind I will just say that I hope to see you all again next year, along with the plethora of new faces, or at least blog headers, that we see every year. Thank you for your inspirational writing and for reading my stuff and sending over such lovely bits of encouragement. We are a community. Us in the slice world, the teaching world, and just us in the human sense. I hope we are trending more toward acting like that as we prepare to hand this society over to those we are currently preparing for just such a step. I’d like to think 2021 can only be better than the year previous. Let’s try and remember that it can be if we make it so.

The Gang Writes a Slice for Dad

Slice 30

I started doing a slice like this a couple years back. My kids are such a major part of who I have become and my blogging is mostly very (too) personal. But that’s just my relationship with writing in general. It’s hard for me to write any other way. I am envious of other bloggers who are able to capture everyday life so eloquently without making them all dramatic and philosophical. But that’s me. This year I gave my 3 kids the prompt below and some think time. Below are their responses.

Prompt: First off I want to say to you guys, my kids, that during this weird year I’ve watched all of you change your lives and adapt and struggle and be forced to do things like school in a completely different way. I’m so proud of you and it’s just another reason I love you very much. Once again, please help me with my blog for work. Answer this the best you can: since you’ve had the unique experience of doing hybrid and remote school having both a teacher parent and a non-teacher parent, so parents you spend time with on both sides of the changing school system, what do you think about how adults handled the pandemic? Also, what have you learned about yourself and about the world during the last year? Feel free to add in anything you want for dad’s blog.

My almost 10 year old daughter. The epitome of precocious. Take the exact amount of vivaciousness and attention-seeking any little girl with 2 older brothers would have, and add a dazzling smidge – that’s her. Her current and previous teachers are participating in SOLC this year – major props to them – I’m so glad she’s experienced their specific brands of genius.

I think that my parents have done a amazing job especially my dad. He has help with online school and in person if I’m having trouble with something in online or in person. The first person I go to is my dad and just going to my regular teacher for help. I’d go to either or and I say they do a amazing job and iv learned so much this year about my family the world and even my self. U learn about my family that there not just family there a fun and perfect family. Even though this is a rough time they push through it and if iv learned anything about my dad this hard year is that he never gives up even though this last few years were tough we did so much fun things and made the best of it.

My middle guy I’ve written about tons this year because he’s needed the most from me. That’s how things go sometimes. Especially at 13. Especially being a middle child. I’m just now reading his response for the first time and am very proud of how well he’s obviously been able to reflect and articulate how this has all gone for him. You want your kids shielded from all the ugly and scary the world holds, but I know enough to hope it will only make him stronger moving forward.

I think that the parents handled the pandemic and corona very well.  I feel like there should’ve been more free range with going outside and the exception would be wearing a mask.  For Corona and school I would say they did it all pretty well and we all had a shaky school year but overall it’ll end well.  What i would have said of what i figured out about myself would be you can only trust certain people and the little things make me stressful.  Keep your group small and just focus on yourself to make you happy.  For the world I would say that the world and the people need to learn how to handle things better.

And with this year’s slicing almost finished I am realizing I didn’t say much about my oldest. He is, truly, the rock of the family. Yes, he is (thankfully) a fairly normal 18 year old kid, but he has had to do so much for so long ahead of when he should have had to. He’s my first. My life really began with him. And he’s going away to school next year and I’m so excited for him that I’m tearing up just typing that out. I have the best kid. I will go to my grave being shocked at the pure luck of that. 

I personally think that the parents did as good as they could. Now with that said I don’t think that that translates to good. The parents of students were, much like the students and teachers, thrown into a situation that seemed impossible with no instruction on how to navigate it. For students who had parents or an adult of some sort at home to guide them through school they likely stayed afloat or even excelled. For the majority of students who didn’t have the luxury of parents or guidance through school they struggled mightily. Without parents even the best students I’ve met suffered severe burnout and a pure lack of care for their education. I personally just don’t care at all about zooms any longer. It is at this point impossible to actually pay attention or want to do anything about an online class. Half the time when im in school I actually pay attention and actually enjoy school. So at least im doing half of school. None of this is the parents fault and none of this is the teachers fault, nobody had any idea how to do this and nobody actually wanted to do this. Everyone lost this past year and I’ve said since last April I think test scores will show over the next 10 years the negative effects that this year will have on the majority of kids. The teachers get annoyed that the kids don’t do school but can’t scold them because the kids are already on edge, the teachers also can’t tell the parents because the parents have their own lives and jobs and they shouldn’t need to focus on their kids school and if they do they just don’t have time to truly focus on them full time. So its just an awful cycle that ends with students losing every time. Speaking for me and other students my level, I have never felt more unprepared for college. Us going back for a month full time after break could potentially help save us a little bit but I know that there are many kids terrified that they will be absolutely lost and kind of thrown out into the wild with no help when next semester comes around. Good news is things are truly getting better and by next year everything should be very near back to normal and everyone once again should be able to learn to the level that they once did. 

Tough Stuff

Slice 29

My baby brother moved to Kentucky a while back. He’s my baby brother even though there are 4 of us and he’s 3rd in line. The last one was born when I was 12. The first three were born before my parents were 21. EddieLarryJoey was one word, the way a quick list of kids becomes when constantly rattled off in order. I could write a novel about his journey. But Kentucky is only 4-5 hours from us and he has a reliable car now so hopefully his visits will be more frequent. He’s the funny one. My kids love him and we spent last night, after he arrived, doing what the elders in my family always called “visiting” which pretty much just means hanging out. My daughter and middle guy peppered him with questions about my brothers and I. He answered each question thoughtfully even though it was really just a silly little exercise. 

My daughter asked who was most athletic and he said he didn’t remember much about lots of his childhood, and the middle of the 3 is technically the correct answer – quarterback, 3 sport athlete – but he explained his memory to my daughter in terms she could understand. He said he had a memory like a screenshot in his head of me, her dad, playing football. And went on about how my size and stature conflicted with the position I played and, more importantly in his recollection, the way I played it. Bottom line, he said, was that her father was tough. I know what I know about all of that but it touched me to hear this memory. 

My brothers are all their own people. The one born when I was 12 is fairly obviously the most successful in all walks of life and I’m proud of him. My parents worked a billion hours a week back then and at 12 I did the diapers and laundry and made lunches and such. The middle of the 3, the quarterback, was nicknamed Woodstock to my Snoopy after we moved to Florida because in his shyness it always took him a while to find his own groove (he has). But the baby brother who’s visiting was me. Wanted to be me. I knew it then as I do now. That meant individualism and independence. Close knit friends, and wild living. Only, I left just as he was getting into his formative years. Things derailed for him in ways I was lucky they did not for me. He was not as into academic pursuits as I was, was held back in 2nd grade for what they called a learning disability and what they’d call now severe ADHD. He has had a tough road but has battled back with a vengeance. And from everything he could’ve saved as a screenshot from those times, it’s that I was tough. Phew. 

I just got back from casting up my middle guy’s finger. It wasn’t totally necessary but he didn’t trust himself with just a splint. He’s a lot like my baby brother. He finished the game he broke it in after trying to yank it out when he thought it was just jammed. I then watched him go through about 6 hours of 3 different baseball workouts where he constantly caught 80 MPH baseballs and hit hundreds of balls as hard as he could. Which is hard. I wrote about my middle guy recently. Like me, and like my brother, he does have a sensitive side. But I guess like me, and probably more my baby brother considering all he’s overcome, he’s pretty darn tough as well.

Stream of Warm Impermanence

Slice 28

I write a lot about my weight and physical status because it’s constantly on my mind. Not sometimes. Constantly. My main crutch/excuse is always being tired from always being busy due to my work/parent/coaching schedule. I barely eat during the day but at night I’m too tired to gym and suddenly starving. They’re excuses. I know this because I have broken this crutch cycle a few times. I’m not stuck being overweight. I’m not afflicted by it. And before I go any further this is my own personal reality. It’s not based on any social media pressure to look a certain way. People can look however they want to and if they’re happy chiseled, chubby, fluffy, scrawny, or whatever adjectives which can be twisted into insults as easily as compliments depending on perspective and intention. 

This slice sprung from my going to the gym today and seeing they were finally doing this 6 week weight loss contest at my gym starting May 1st. I have done this multiple times in the past and have won each time except for one where I came in second. It comes with some supplements and gym paraphernalia and 6 months free gym dues. But it seems to be the only thing lately that works for me. Psychologically there’s something easily unpacked in there, I’m sure. Ego, narcissism, attention – whatever.

I cracked the code long ago. When I am happy and secure I get fat. That’s it. We grew up poor but unaware and I was mostly chubby but very happy. As time went on I became the hopeless romantic stereotypical gay best friend, despite being hetero, for all the girls in my group – most of which I was probably actually “in love” with at some point. We moved just before my senior year and I got skinny without knowing it. I made fast friends and had a good time but part of me was sad and missing my friends. I moved back home soon after high school. Girls liked me better skinny. Dudes seemed to respect me more. I came home and got happy and slightly chubby and went back into my role of friendzoning with everyone for the most part. I ate myself out of a marriage. Crutches in full-force. Stay at home dad, going from also managing a bar at night to full time college student. Exhaustion personified. During that time the only time I was able, or even fully tried, to lose weight was for my wedding. That seemed important. But after that I began the long journey to absolutely blowing up physically. 

I lost 70 pounds in under 3 months when the big D came around and wasn’t really aware until I found out our neighbors were asking if the pall cast across the street and weight loss perhaps came with some critical diagnosis or other, which I guess it kind of did, just not medically. In the years that followed I worked. I was a gym guy. There are pictures of me at a weight I never thought I’d reach and girls who flat out turned me down a year previous were suddenly, sometimes overwhelmingly, interested. In retrospect I’m ashamed to say some of my dating proclivities and cycles during that time were fueled by revenge, partially for those early dating times rejections, probably mostly about my marriage. I was so caught up during that time in being “perfect” physically that I wasn’t nefarious about it – I honestly just wasn’t reflecting on anything then. To reflect on anything then was way too scary. 

I’ve been big again now for a while. I got tenure, my master’s degree, and a steady girl – all of which has allowed me the biggest new thing that allows my cycle of chub to continue – hope. I’m happy for the most part. And yes, still, very busy and tired. Life is about continual evolution and I believe I can do well in this contest come May 1st. I know I feel better, and more secure, about my life when I am in good shape. The next step in my evolution, then, will be to remain happy on all levels and toss these crutches back to the past where they never belonged in the first place.

Spring Broke (or, the rapid nature of existence)

Slice 27

Spring break – finally. It is official day one and I already know it’s going to whip by and I’ll find myself in my classroom awaiting the start of the end, and the final (hopefully) iteration of this era of weird. Chili’s, Lost binge, March Madness, French Toast, groceries, March Madness, Taking the boy for his driver’s license, laundry, sleep, March Madness, out to dinner, family fantasy baseball draft, brother from Kentucky visit, March Madness, Bulls game, out to dinner, Cubs opening day, birthday party, watch that movie, rest, quick quick quick – go. 

The one thing noticeably missing from that wonderfully curated itinerary is the start of our travel baseball team’s season. We have some practices and, weather permitting, a game or two to attend. But it will be different. After a time consuming, 3 day a week since January, winter workout grind, our first official activity of break was a doctor visit. Broken finger. Ortho can’t see you until April 7th at noon – first day back to school. No timetable until then. I just changed the appointment the EMT made for us for further away on Monday while big brother was practicing driving, thankfully. 

His cheeks seemed to be always chipmunked from smiling. His eyes black and squinty like mine. These were my thoughts yesterday when social media stumbled me upon old pictures of my middle guy. My ballplayer. My troubled child ever since “little” stopped being an apt description for his lankily upwardly expanding frame. It probably started during and after the divorce, if I’m honest, but I was too busy in myself and making us look a certain way to notice. If I’m honest.  

Now the main thing that actually makes him smile these days, the thing he has been looking forward to since sweet air was replaced so long ago by bitter winds blown with even more alienating furiosity by Covid, has been delayed. Because, of course. He broke it playing football with buddies. He may not have the tools, yet, to master online learning but when it’s something he loves, he goes hard. Always. He is sensitive, heartbreakingly so, and I encourage all young men to indulge and craft a solid sense of sensitivity. There’s a big void in the gender. I love this sensitivity in him even though it has bit his old man in the butt over and over because I still believe it’s better than alpha ultra caveman. But that doesn’t mean he’s not tough. He’s had to be, unfortunately. But he continued that football game with a broken finger, and played through 3 subsequent baseball workouts where that finger was bashed and slammed, high-impact style, over and over.

That little guy. Who earned the nickname “Smiley” from his favorite tom-boy aunt. Who is as tall as me and sees the same darkness I’ve allowed to make me jaded and armored, despite still being too young for such heavy despair. It really isn’t fair. But he knows real life isn’t fair because his dad has been warning him of that since about the time the bleakness started moving in. The depths of that are too possibly guilt-riddled to even explore, but I see the tenuous correlation.

Spring break will go fast. Yes. But man, everything does. I know it’s cliché but clichés exist for a reason. It’s going to speed by, I know, but I also know I am going to immerse myself in all of it and make it count.

Time After Time

Slice 26

8:09 – Friday before break and (hopefully) the final day of remote/hybrid learning. I’m wearing a “Friends” themed T shirt one of my co-workers made in the name of solidarity back when this all started that says “I’ll be there for you” and instead of F*R*I*E*N*D*S it says “Teacher” and there are masks on the zeroes in 2020. When I opened up my computer this morning I had an excellent John Prine/Kurt Vile tribute Youtube waiting for me from my teaching partner and the kids will be here for their last day in this leg of weird. I figured, for today’s slice, I’d just leave the doc open and slice my thoughts and the happenings of this, I guess at least for us, historic day, in order to memorialize it. Come along, won’t you?

8:48 – Everyone from my homeroom, in person and remote, is in attendance. That’s weird for a normal day let alone the day before break. I think I need to take my son in to maybe get Xrays or find out if he needs Xrays on what I thought was just a finger jam after work. Time travel – thinking about after the day that I’ve put a bunch of importance in while said day is just starting. Context. Grand scheme. Kids are neon’d up for last day of cosmic bowling and exploring our latest educational trend – everyone seems down for some morning time bubble maps – so far so good. 

9:27 – back from the final day of PE cosmic bowling – nothing like shakin’ it in blacklight to Beyonce on a Friday morning! Also – gym class was never this cool when I was a kid. Except the parachute – that was bomb.

11:13 – made the kids laugh at least 4 times, got through a grammar lesson wherein 3 of my 8 students did not have the work they needed despite my putting IN ALL CAPS on yesterday’s schedule, and verbally reminding multiple times to put the work in their bags for tomorrow (today) without losing my calm and actually being pretty darned cool about it  – still cruising right along just fine!!! 

12:10 – twenty minutes to eat. The lady at district put the picture I twitter’d from cosmic bowling up on the school website – kids got a kick out of that after getting a kick out of some frosty kickball. My hair is bird nests due to having to wear my hood – I’ve decided I’m done with coats. About to eat with my kids when I see my girl has packed lunch with a cute note – so remarkable, the surprise little things and how much they can affect everything! Sigh. I play episodes of He Man during lunch because it’s free on the youtubes. Yesterday’s group ignores it except to watch ironically – today’s kids scream enthusiastically, in unison, the entire opening scene. I watch my teaching partner’s class while she heats her soup and we always hear group B “I HAVE THE POWER!!!!!” – so good. When Adam transformed later on I choked down my bite of unwich in time to join them. They were delighted. So now I am too. I was even louder than them. Also, I added the “new” kids who will be joining our in person class after break to my Google Classroom because I decided that last 20 minutes of school should be with ALL my kids so I sent out the alert – 2:35 MEETING!!!!!!! 

1:38 – just finished our last split remote/in school read aloud session. No more after we come back – it’ll just be the in-school kids. The school gave us Renee Jain’s sort of self help for kids book and we didn’t quite finish it but I cherry picked some choice nuggets about resilience and turned it into my 4th or 5th impromptu speech of the day. They are more than halfway to leaving for 11 days and it is the end of this part of the covid and speeches keep flying out of my mouth because I feel like they are happily running from this moment they will always remember (in my mind) and I need to make sure they are safe and filled with love and knowledge before the video games and sleeping that take place for fun and not escape from remote school anymore begins and I am out of breath!!!!

2:29 – 2 more speeches to my 4th reading group. They get it. I tell myself they get it. These kids are geeked to leave and I told them they all deserve it from the laziest to the busiest – this has been one weird year and I need them to enjoy and refuel – they will be doing 5 days a week for the first time in over a year and we have lots of work to do to become 6th graders!!! Man, some days these guys scare me but today – nothing but pure love. 

3:17 – ugh. Ok – I had to get a cup of tea to finish this up but I am ready. Couldn’t have asked for a more fitting finale to this poopshow (as a writer, I’ve always been good with swearing. I enjoy many writers who punctuate with profanity but I sell out here because teachers, it’s fine). My final class went well – lots of smiles in eyes above masks. The math test happening in my homeroom ran a little late which is to be expected just before break but I had my final meet beginning so the kids joining got a good look at the hall until I was finally able to begin my goodbyes. No sooner did I introduce the new, mystery students that would be jumping on the bus for the duration of this long strange trip than my computer just completely died. Made my TV convulse and just went into the blue spinning wheel. This hasn’t happened since at least NOVEMBER!!!!!  But while I scrambled the kids who were in-person today jumped on and were seeing kids from the other hybrid group they really haven’t in months. “OMG look at your hair it’s adorable!!!” and other various and sundry comments and inside jokes heretofore relegated to Google Hangout chat texts suddenly sprinkled the air and as I finally gave up the ghost and logged into the meet on my phone I thought – they all got their unrestricted goodbye to hybrid learning in the most fun way possible. It was, in a word, awesome. Even underneath my red faced embarrassment. Then I got on, for maybe 5 minutes. Told them I know some of them might not have a happy 11 days in front of them and promised I would be missing them and here waiting for them when they came back. I told them that each and every one of them deserved the break they were about to get – even those I am constantly on for being lazy, because they are, finally, completing a section of this weird year they’d never forget. And I told them I wanted them to be safe and that I loved them all, very much. A fitting finish, all things considered. Now I get to focus a little more on my other people for a few days and I need it as much as they do. So it goes.

Down For The Count (and I’m Drownin’ in ‘Em)

Slice 25

Two covid tests in two weeks. My kids. Well, the younger two. I’ve been careful, or at least lucky, enough to come out of this thing unscathed. Not even having to experience the test. Thankfully, it seems, as I hear my 9 year old daughter talk about her rapid test today. “So far up my nose my eyes went crossed!” 

My son had one a couple weeks ago when he wasn’t feeling well. This, of course, causes a chain reaction and no one can go to school and protocols must be followed, mental contact-tracing lists checked. We knew where he got his stomach bug, and, that it was a stomach bug.

But she seemed Covid-ish and it was scary for me because, just like at the beginning of this whole thing when their mom got it, they were quarantined away from me. I can’t think of any feeling I fear more than helplessness. I learned that the hard way over time. Drowning and on fire all at once. Especially when it comes to my people. I like to fix things. Or at least to help. 

I got the text today that her mom’s car wouldn’t start and her test was scheduled for 15 minutes away at 11:15. Our floating sub was already someone. I realized in retrospect that I am vaccinated so probably didn’t have to worry but a flash of scary ran across my eyes as I quickly banged out a lower-case email to the boss explaining that I may have to leave if possible to get her there due to the fact that they may not let me back into the building without a hazmat suit after taking her. But needing to help superseded that fear in real time. All of this I handled mentally while teaching my biggest class of the day both in person and online. 

Logistically it was impossible for me to leave on such short notice, and it’s understandable but very frustrating that I even had to think about how they’d enter a midday “absence” in the system where I basically just miss lunch/recess and a portion of a science lesson. Thankfully their aunt was able to come cover so she could get her test and we found out right away that she was negative. Phew. It would have been just like this year to have that be our spring break. 

She was adorable, though. Soon as she got word the test was negative she was “better.” Fever is gone and throat is now bearable, but there is a trace of cough. Funny, though, how kids process. She was sick until the doc said no covid. Then poof – picture of health. 

All without superdad being able to do anything. So it goes. The lengths we go, in our cars and in our hearts, are endless, and the lengths we would subject ourselves to, infinite. And sometimes those lengths are cul-de-sac circuitous despite the miles accrued because helplessness abounds. In the end it doesn’t matter who the hero is, or if there gets to be one at all. Everyone is ok so we can go back to whatever this normal decides to be tomorrow.

Mountains Beyond Mountains

Slice 24

It’s 3:30 for real?!?!?! Is this some daylight savings hijinks? What in the actual heck?

I am not going to turn this slice into a list of everything I did today between 7:45ish and, yes, 3:30 because no one wants to read it and I don’t want to go back over all of it in order to write it. But today was our last hybrid Wednesday. Our 1 hour PLC meeting was canceled and I went from 4 small group meetings to just one 25 minute Google Meet. So I had the whole day.

And still. 3:30 hit me like a 5 AM alarm clock the morning after a 7 PM latte. 

Next week is spring break and after that the kids come back in full force, 5 days a week. I NEED spring break. We all do, I know. We will have baseball and other things to occupy us with but, really, I need to refuel for this last stretch. I know it. I mean, teachers know, if spring break wasn’t a thing we’d make it happen. Everyone would cross the finish line more or less intact. 

But I need my students to have this break. Whether they come back ready or less-ready because of it. They don’t need it in the way us adults think the word “need” means – many would argue they’ve been on break for a year and they’d be correct in some regards. But there’s hope commingled in the very idea of a break. Hope for change and a sense of renewal, despite the irony that the very notion of spring specifically conjures those exact themes. The hope I’m hopefully hoping for is unique to this year. To almost right now. You can only feel constantly on the verge so long before you wonder if you’re just used to the freefall. 

So I tore through the day. And there wasn’t enough time and I didn’t get enough done. And yes, I have been known to stay in my room from time to time until 5,6, even 7 o’clock on occasion. But, if you haven’t noticed, I like so many of you, need a break. I need the gym, to check on my sick little girl, to connect with my middle guy who still seems about as lost as 13 year olds can be and for whatever reason I believe there is some magic key I might uncover that unlocks all the hormonal confusion and angst of a hybrid/remote scary scary world for him. I need to tune out of this world I love so much and want to put everything into because I know I have other worlds I feel at least equally strong about. 

Teachers do not have a timecard to punch and if we did there would be a lot of swollen knuckles. But today I need to get out of here and take a break so I can be ready for the next break and beyond.

O Heavy Lightness

Slice 23 and me

“I’m so sorry this crease on the cover is because of how the book was pressed in my backpack (the crease is basically nonexistent) and I also think I found the entire pile of books you’ve given me so far this year I’ll bring them to you at the end of the day.”

Makes sense the kid who did the second thing is also the one worried about the first. I spend so much time worrying that I can’t get certain kids to catch the reading or writing bug. A love of lit, or at least an understanding of the importance of being able to communicate and decipher anything purposely being drilled into their brains by the world with intentions nefarious or otherwise.

I read all of the Stephen King at way too young an age. Like 8-10 years old. I was at my grandma’s a lot and she had them all laying around. I didn’t understand but was understandably cued into the smatterings of sex stuff and the murdery creepy Stephen King stuff wasn’t even really the highlight – I loved escaping into the worlds and knowing the character development I was tracking (somewhat, in retrospect) was something for smarter people than I was. 

And for whatever reason I decided in like 4th grade that I loved penguins because of the whole monogamy thing. Right after that they showed us Romeo and Juliet without even considering what Olivia Hussey’s Juliet’s plunging neckline would do to young men already knee deep in even just Hallmark understandings of romantic love. That was it. Not only did I have to bridge King and the Bard but I had to envelope a good deal of my budding identity with what I felt they represented.

By sophomore year I was a poet who liked everything weird there was. I saw Basketball Diaries, mostly glossed over the themes of Jim Carroll’s struggles amidst a young Leo’s excellent depiction, and focused mainly on that rolled up notebook of cool in his back pocket. It was mostly affect, I know, that led me to bars in my earliest 20s with a similar notebook in my back pocket – ready to be whipped out and scrawled upon by bad beer number 5 or too-sweet shot number 2. Anyone who’d seen the movie knew exactly where I got this artistic “inspiration” and why it was pretty poseur of me. But I didn’t care. And then of course Leo played Romeo for Luhrman and my community college published a research paper/essay I did on the film. Full circle. Lollerskates.

And not only have I become the teacher you’d think a kid I just described would become, but I try real hard to make these kids little me’s. Dude, I was weird, so there are frustrations when I forget sometimes. But I did see a little of that weird guy in the girl this morning. Or at least a hint of him, compared to the kids I’m still BEGGING to read ONE BOOK using the link to the audiobook I found them. But the fact that I don’t give up – on being open-minded to abstract art, on maybe one day having the time to create some sort of publishable writing, on the idea of romantic poetic flawed imperfect wonderful love – or on these kids, tells me that odd little writerly bookworm would be ok with how I turned out. 

All Neon Like

Slice 22

I decided at around 9 what I would slice about today. It was good to have this happy moment in my head as I navigated through what has hopefully been my last ever hybrid Monday. The day got brutal as it went on. Even after the beautiful weather I played football with the kids in outside. Even after the moment I am about to slice on. It’s like they get together and specifically study the buttons they must push to push me over the edge waaaaay more than they study literally anything else and…

I’m slicing about 9 o’clock. With current schedules and me being my class’ lunch supervisor and recess patrol, my one break is from about 9 to 9:30 while they are in gym class. I have trained my teacher bladder for this year and have cut down to my first (very large) cup of coffee in a space cup that keeps it hot a ridiculously long time. So I always try to pop in and hang out the last 5-10 minutes of gym class every day. The kids like it and sometimes I even get to jump into some pickleball or whatever shenanigans they’re up to. The kids are happy and there’s always music pumping and it’s a good way for all of us to sort of kick off the day after that first half of the 8:30 writing block. 

Lots of old traditions and fun things the kids look forward to have been gone over a year now. My kids, for example, were to have the big outdoor education overnight trip this year. That’s the big one but there are so many more. We usually start gearing up for the big dance off between 5th and 6th grade about now and I have a blast learning the choreography and practicing with my 5th graders in the hopes we dominate my last year’s fifth graders’ faces off. There are black lights and neon and the dances are like 12 minutes long and it’s awesome. We also also have a huge incentive floor hockey tournament every year. These are things they look forward to when they’re younger – being one of the big kids in school and getting to do all these fun activities. 

And while all of that is gone this week in gym class is cosmic bowling. I did the bladder thing (TMI, sorry, writing is all about the deets, dudes) and hightailed it right to PE. I got a glow necklace like I was a kid again entering a rave in some seedy downtown warehouse and immediately stopped (correctly) dreading the rest of the day. Loud music, giggling kids awash in blacklight and twirling glow in the dark jump ropes and taking their turns, masked and distanced, to bowl some frames on a Monday morning at school. I had a blast. And while it wasn’t “normal” it was an attempt at a facsimile that came real close. The PE teacher was the hero of my morning and I’m sure she provided the highlight of the kids’ day as well. For a moment, in the dark where masks and oddness weren’t openly apparent, we all felt like we weren’t missing out on something for once.