Saturday, June 17, 2006

Ramblings for the Morning (06/17/06)

I'm back.
Life has been hectic and busy, which is life, I guess.
Where have I been? Well...the school year ended, I had frantic phone calls being made to my house, and I have been trying to get my summer together.
I have a class I have to be at all next week, so I've been gathering materials.
Ok, you got me, I've been staring at this rainbow light that dances across my house everyday (it's a refraction of light that hits a lamp I have that was my grandmother's. I love it.
On with the show.
So, without further ado: EAAAAGLE!
I mentioned this before, but I never quite got around to talking about it. My school's graduation was boring. Granted, it was still better than Patrick Henry's (No one pulled a gun) and better than Central's (No brawls among the grads during the ceremony). Still, let me hit the highlights.
1. The Roy Wilkins Auditorium was incredibly hot. There was easily a 15 degree difference between the inside of the auditorium and the hallway. I stood outside pacing out programs at one point, and I could feel the heat pushing at my back. Very nasty. Which reminds me....
2. Originally, I was forgotten by my school. Yes, it was a running theme this year, but they did not put me on the list. I got there after my principal told me to be there..or else, and I discovered that they did not have a job for me nor did they have me on the check-in list. However, because I was there, I could not leave. I had three jobs when all was said and done.
A. I was to setup the area downstairs where gowns were turned in and diplomas were given. I put the tables up, put out the placards, and setup the chairs. Good stuff.
B. Programs. We made 1,500 programs. I was given a stack of 600. I was out very quickly. One woman put her finger on my chest and pushed me against the wall when I didn't have a program for her. "I drove 1,000 miles to see my first grandchild graduate. What do YOU mean you don't have a program?" After thirty more seconds of complaining, I gave her the program I had pulled for myself. No one else complained, just this woman.
C. I was to watch the door over by the men's room to make sure no one snuck in or out. That one was good, because it allowed me to leave, which I did when the ceremony went late.
3. The ceremony went late. We had to start late, because students were arriving late, didn't get in line quickly, and (my personal favorite) the valedictorian speaker...was late. Good stuff. You want more?
4. The ceremony was boring. Incredibly BORING! Oh my. The band was off key, the choir was WAY off key, and the speakers were...well...atrocious. One speech dealt with a woman going down memory lane about what highschool was like when she graduated forty years ago. After ten minutes of "look at how crazy things were in the sixties, the main point emerged: Life will be different in forty years. Good luck. One faculty member near me said, "What?" That was the running theme.
The valedictorian's speech was next. He, I was later told, thought he was being funny as he gave his speech about Aesop's Fables. He was hunched over the podium, too far away from the mic (thus creating lots of feedback), and his speech was boring.
The only good speech came from a faculty member who talked about searching in yourself before searching the world. The only problem, however, was that his speech was extremely dark.
It was boring. The highlight came when a disgruntled student attempted to hit one of the faculty members with a bottle. The student was on the second floor, and the faculty member was next to me. The teacher on her other side and I caught the bottle, and could hear the laughing, but we couldn't find the student.
That's how boring it was. And it was long. I left at 7:15, and it STILL wasn't done. I couldn't take it anymore. I had been there since 3:30.
When I graduated, it was fast. It went like this:
"Good morning" (Quick two minute intro from the head).
"The graduates are...." (Get your diploma.)
"Our speaker" (with a four minute speech offering to buy us dinner).
"Now get out" (and we left).
It was under an hour.
I understand that graduation is a big deal, but cut the pomp and circumstance (no pun intended). Bring them in, give them ONE speaker, call them up for the diploma, and then leave. They don't want to be there for two-and-a-half hours. Neither do the teachers or the families. Make it easy on everyone.
NASCAR Gets a New Sponsor:
Scientology. That's right the RELIGION practiced throughout Hollywood...and parts of the real world is sponsoring a
car. The team is going to be called: "Ignite Your Potential" and will be all about Hubbard and Dianetics. Does no one else have a problem with this? Am I the only one?
Let's look at all the elements of this story here:
1. NASCAR is the second most popular sport in the United States (Football is #1). The Cruise Gang is smart as they can reach many people with that car. However, the downside is that most of those people are HARDCORE Christians. That whole "Bible is LITERALLY true" group. Scientologists will have a hard time reaching them.
2. If this works, will the church be next? Will there be a Catholic car or a Protestant car? How great would it be if the Protestant and Catholic car kept trying to run each other off the track? It would be like Ireland on Asphalt.
3. What about the Jewish car? Will it be the color of lox and the driver will have locks on his helmet? Maybe Thomas' Bagels could be the sponsor. (Before you get all "Oh no he didn't" on me, remember that my father is Jewish.)
4. My issue, however, is that a religion is allowed to sponsor something. It's good to know that those Scientologists' money is going to a worthy cause.... Do you remember The Simpsons episode where Homer tries to go to the Super Bowl, while Marge and Lisa see an ad for the Catholic Church? (The episode is called "Sunday, Cruddy Sunday.") In that episode (which the Catholic Church tried to have cut), a man pulls into gas station where sexy ladies fill up his gas tank and wash his car to the tune of "She's Got Legs." At the end, they zoom in on the cross around her neck and say, "The Catholic Church. We've made a few changes." It's brilliant satire on the Super Bowl ads.
Now to the point: Are we really that far away from that? We already have the "Church of Latter Day Saints" ads. Should Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism or Scientology be allowed to put ads out like that? They aren't technically businesses, so should they be putting out ads?
I can't answer this question. Only you can. My opinion is no. We have too much religion out their in the mainstream, so I think we don't need anymore.
I don't have any ill wishes toward the Scientology racer, but I find it suspect that a religion is allowed to sponsor anything. Will there be an ad at the Metrodome next year?
You tell me.
And finally:
The Zen of Gardening:
I have a VERY hard time relaxing. I'm one of those people that's always keyed up, because if I relax, my body literally unwinds. Seriously. I tried relaxing yesterday, and suddenly I had back pain.

That's why I love to garden with my wife. When we moved into our house, we discovered that one of the previous owners was a concrete mason, and he HATED grass and gardening. So, he did two things:
1. The entire backyard is concrete. He killed ALL of the grass and covered it with concrete.
2. He ripped out almost all the plants and put in stone. Lots and lots of stone. Mrs. Leab was extremely happy as there was a blank canvas. She could do whatever she wanted as the only plants we had were Hostas (which are green...that's it).
Three years later, we now have several distinct gardens.
First we removed all the stone and piled it up. In the back we placed roses, clematis, and more.
The front, however, is where we're really proud of our work. We created a garden on the corner of our lawn (note to anyone who tries to do this: Lay down tarp and kill the grass that way. Digging it all up is a giant pain. Trust me.), and we created an evergreen garden on one side of the house. The other is more like an English garden. It's nice.
So you may ask, "Leab. You're a guy. Most guys...don't garden. What's the deal?"
Well, I like it, because gardening, mowing the lawn, and watering are ways to zen moments. As you mow, the world disappears. It's only you, the grass, and the mower. You don't hear much else but the hum of the engine. As you dig the dirt and place the plants in their new homes, you realize the connections among all of us and the world. Thinking about watering and when you should, as well as how it works, shows the fragility of the world. If you deeply water a plant twice a week, then it learns to dig deep for water and survive without having to watered everyday (which is what you want. You want the plants to be able to need only two days of watering).
I garden, because it can be peaceful. The only time I ever hated what I was doing was when I discovered that the previous owner had put concrete UNDER the entire bed. I had to break up the concrete and dispose of it. That was not fun.
If you don't do so now, get a plant and care for it. It allows for a peace I cannot describe. It's like Bonsai (which I also recommend).
That's all I got for now. More as it comes.
P.S. Ask me nicely, maybe I'll tell you a story about getting phone calls and such.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

End of the School Year (2005-2006) III

There is a bruise on my right hand. It covers my knuckles. There is also a hole in the wall of the building I work in right now. Are the two related? You decide.
The year came to a close at 2:00 PM today, but the frustration continues. Honestly this week has been complete and utter hell. Let's move beyond my personal life issues and go straight to the work ones.
I was nice to my students. They had their real final during The Odyssey. Most of them blew it off and paid for it. The final for my class was grammar. Only grammar (Yes, it is ironic that my grammar, at times, is quite atrocious...moving on now). 40 points. That was it.
The scores...not so good. Some kids failed. A few got an "A" from me. Most, however, cruised into the "D" and "C" range. Here's the kicker. They were happy with it. I would have kicked my own ass.
So, after most of the students had destroyed their grades on the project, I offered some easy assignments to help boost their grades. Most of the students blew these off as well. That's why I hate this time of year. I hate having to grab a student and show them, "Well, you got the"D" here, because you blew off these easy 10 point assignments."
Of course I got the, "Can I make them up?" from the students, but I stood firm.
"No. You had the opportunity to do it, and you chose not to."
Look, I don't think grades are the end all, be all of civilization. If the kids were concentrating on the grade for the class, they missed out on almost everything I was saying. I don't care about the final grade. I care that they show me they understand how to use what I've been teaching.
It's why now, as I sit here in my home, I feel as though I failed the kids who did not pass.

I'm torn.
On the one hand, I should have concentrated more on the kids who had problems.
On the other, I have to realize that they have to meet me halfway.

On the one hand, I probably could have cared more.
On the other, how can I care more than them?

I could go on and on.
I watched the kids take their finals, and I realized I could tell, without having to grade, which kids got it and which didn't. I was right as I graded.
My grades, by the way, are finished. Took me one hour this afternoon to get them all in to Campus (online grading). That's about the only positive thing I can say about it.
I freely admit that I am the new guy on the block at my school. So why is it that my colleagues use me as a psychologist?
I had one talking to me about her significant other: "What do you think he's feeling?"
My response: "Well, have you tried asking him?"
Another was talking to me about being single.
Another was talking to me about how to deal with a child (yeah, I don't have teenage kids, so...I don't know).
I could go on and on. Apparently I'm really only good for help or for procurement. (Hey Leab, I need this, so can you get it for me?)
One of my colleagues is fond of saying, "my anger from teaching comes, more often than not, from my colleagues, not the kids." I can relate.
Everyday the entire last two months, someone on the staff has said to me, "Wow, how can you deal with teaching Freshman all day? I'd go nuts!"
I look at it like a cut on your hand. You ever slice your hand while cutting vegetables or bread or some sort of food? If you cut your hand and just say, "Oops, I cut my hand," and then clean it up, it's not so bad.
If, however, you cut your hand and someone shouts, "OH MY GOD!!!! YOU CUT YOUR HAND!!!!" followed by someone else doing it, then you might feel a little panic.
I do my job, and I don't usually feel tired, but everytime some says to me, "Oh God, how do you stand at the end of the day?" I usually feel one of two things:
1. Exhausted. My body almost screams, "Hey! I'm tired!"
2. Angry. I don't need to be told over and over again that my situation is rough. I know. You don't grab the guy in the wheelchair and say, "Don't you wish you could walk?" That's just mean.
Don't poke the bear, folks. Don't poke the bear.
End of the School Year...and Beyond:
I had everything wrapped up today. The woman who I am to turn my keys and such into left early today. She promised she would be around, but, after I worked extremely hard to get everything done in under an hour, I went down to the office only to discover she had left an hour early. Why tell me, "I'll be here late, only to leave early."
And no, there was no emergency. She just left.
My anger, however, is not at her. She's great. No, the problem is in my setup next year.
I don't have my own room. I have a cart. That's right, Teacher on Wheels. Moving on.
I have a desk in a shared office. Well, my desk is staying put, but now two major groups (about 8 people) are moving into the room with me. The room isn't huge.
The problem is not that so many people will be in there ALL THE TIME. My problem is that I came in today to find a few of these people trying to take my desk from me.
It was like catching your significant other cheating on you.
There's the moment of shock when you take in what your seeing
There's the denial (I'm not seeing what I think I'm seeing).
Then...there's the anger.
I had all three.
The first thing I saw was all the boxes being taken off my desk (we pack up all of our stuff for Summer Break so the school can be thoroughly cleaned (and so stuff won't disappear during summer school). The three people moving my stuff looked like kids being caught in the cookie jar.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"We need this desk," I was told.
"You can't have it," I replied. "That's my desk, and I'm using it."
"This isn't your desk."
"Um, that's my picture of my wife, and that's my name on the papers there."
"Oh....Well, we need the desk, so you'lkl have to move."
"No. I will only give up that desk if the principal herself comes up here and tells me to move from it."
"We need to the desk. Just give it to us."
"No. Put my stuff down, move away from the bookshelf too as that's mine as well, and figure something else out."
At this point, one of the three goes and calls the principal to tell on me. I'm not kidding. This person said I was "being combative and unhelpful."
Now, I am very lucky in that I have a good rapport with my princiapl. She showed up, took one look around, and then asked me what was happening.
I told her they were attempting to pillage my desk.
She looked around and said, "No. (indicating the three people) You will be over there. Leave that area alone."
"No. That is HIS desk and his stuff. Leave it alone."
She leaves, and what happens?
I'm reasonable, so I tell them:
"Drop my stuff, NOW! Back away from my desk. You heard the principal. Take those two desks over there."
Grumble, grumble, grumble is all I get as a response.
I sat at my desk for my whole lunch break in order to make sure they left my stuff alone. I want my corner (because you can't see if I'm in there from the hall).
Of course as I was rushing to finish everything this afternoon, one my colleagues somehow doesn't see me and shuts the lights off. I sat in the dark thinking, "Wow, I really don't rate, do I?"
And then the kicker: I have five classes next year, and, as of right now, it's all freshman again. I had some senior classes, but those are gone now. All freshman, all the time. I can feel the grey hairs. Don't get me wrong, I like working with freshman, but there are times when you need that adult conversation you can't get with the younger kids.
During Romeo & Juliet, they could not stop giggling about how they had sex. That gets kind of annoying.
After all that frustration, I bruised my hand. It hurts.
As for my other frustrations, that's for another day.
I'm just sorry that the graduates didn't come back for the painting.
Oh well.
Tomorrow is our end of year meeting. It's also when we're supposed to finish our grades (but I'm done). This is it, then...two months off. Bring on the Summer.

A Clarification

I want to make one thing crystal clear.
This is not a joke nor does it come out of anger. It is solely an explanation.
All references to any certain former members of the Fox 9 morning team have been removed from this site.
Other blogs have been deleted, posts have been removed, and names edited out.
If certain former members do not believe this, do a search for a specific name above at the "search this blog" bar. Then click on the supposed posts. You'll see the references are in fact gone.
This is all I can do.
I have requested that others remove the writings, but I cannot make them.
I, of course, apologize if this has caused any problems, but I have done what was requested of me.
Should I be missing something, please contact me by email at and tell me what actions you would like me to do.
That's all I got.
The humble writer.