Posts Tagged literature

The other side of the river

Every once in a while, something insightful crosses my path that I feel compelled to share. In Herman Hesse’s novel, Siddhartha, the main character asks a ferryman to carry him across a river. Symbolizing the escape from his previous life, He, like Odysseus returning from the underworld by way of the river, Styx, arrives on the other side at a new beginning; a new chapter in his life. I think we could all shed baggage that has been weighing us down for far too long; I would like to be a better me. I wrote this poem for an exercise in class today.

The river’s edge calls me softly to cross,
I cannot see the other side.
First my toe, cold- then my knees
The icy touch of the water cuts into my body
As I sink deeper.
Now at the waist, I feel the current;
It pulls me toward the middle.
My heart beats with trepidation as the bottom drops;
I am treading water.
I can go forward or retreat to what I know.
I begin to swim.

 

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The interstellar educational chili pepper

This week, I set sail on the Pequod towards the South Seas with my trusted friends, Ishmael and Queequeg. After a week of recovery, I set back to work on Monday morning where my students asked incessantly, “What did you do?” As if I didn’t tell them the week prior to surgery that I was having my ankle worked on?!?! Better yet, one student, commenting on my knee scooter, asked, “Did you buy that?”

“No…I leased it. It was $1,899 down, $189 a month for 72 months”

“Wow! You’re going to need that scooter for 72 months?!?!?”

Hmmm. These are the same students who are complaining about Moby Dick having too many pages and using big words. Perhaps I should lower my expectations for eleventh grade to include Highlights magazine. We could do word searches and read short stories with life lessons in them.

Seriously, though. Son is learning faster than we can teach him. He spelled his name yesterday at school without help or those little guide-dashes on handwriting worksheets. He can recognizes every letter in the alphabet. A few weeks ago, I was driving toward the gym (natch’) and son and I passed a national chain food restaurant. Son exclaimed with excitement, “Daddy, I know what ‘S’ starts with…a pepper.” Thanks, Chili’s, for the educational signage.

Yesterday, I participated in market research regarding pizza. I sat in a bleak room with a two-way mirror along one wall as women dressed in laboratory coats brought me several slices of pizza to evaluate. But, they didn’t just bring them out. First, we were told to examine the appearance. Out of a blank wall, a door appeared and a young woman brought out a pizza with a specified number atop. After five or so seconds she moved on to other participants and I set out to answer several questions about how appealing the pizza was. Seriously, of the three pies, I couldn’t tell you which was which were I asked to go back and compare. Maybe they were turning the oven hotter or cooking it longer; they seemed the same to me.

After the general appeal questions, we were told to cleanse our palettes with saltine crackers and spring water, making sure to thoroughly rinse the entire cracker from our mouths prior to tasting the pizza. We took two bites from the front, two from the crust, and, heck, one from the middle just for kicks. More questions; more pizza. Finally, when we left, we received some dough for our troubles.

Much needed money, mind you. Today, the computer repairman explained to me that both the battery and the hard drive failed on my Macbook Pro (mid 2009). For Christmas 2012, I will receive a brand new (used) computer with no data on it. I am concerned because our backup drive is the only thing separating me from meeting an untimely death were it to fail as well. 60,000 photos from 2002 until last week reside on two backup drives, a cloud-based storage system, and were on the laptop itself. The computer will be ready on Tuesday when I can then begin the laborious task of rebuilding the computer with its backup. One note, because I had to replace the drive anyway, I doubled the size for only $30 more. I thought the battery drained fast.

Anyway, today I had the stitches removed from my ankle where three, 1 inch incisions barely stand out upon examination. I am not completely recovered, though, so my wife will still have to get my beers for me. Tomorrow during the Bulldogs game, maybe I’ll ask for wings as well. I better get something, though, because she and several friends are sharing a limousine to the Madonna concert  (Must. Count. Blessings. Not. Asked. To Go.) tomorrow night. She deserves a night out, but did she have to do it with such style?

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Ring the school bell, Summer is here!

In Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Bells”, He writes about the ever-ringing bells signaling the future:

How it dwells
On the Future! -how it tells
Of the rapture that impels
To the swinging and the ringing
Of the bells, bells, bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells –
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!

Bells are signals in our lives. We have alarm bells, school bells, church bells, wedding bells, clock bells, orchestral bells, stock market bells; heck, we even have a liberty bell, albeit cracked. The structure of our life is indicated by sound. No bell sounds clearer than the one indicating end of the work day on Friday, where some can enjoy a three day weekend, and the kids get their summer break from school.

Earlier this week, I found a letter that I kept where a student wrote I was an asshole that nobody likes. Hmm, maybe someone should ask wife about that. The real treat came, though, when a student brought me a gift card to a Smoothie King.  I drink a protein shake every day and this particular student noticed and thought I might get use out of the gift. Teaching is about always looking forward, preparing students for the next phase in their education and life.

Daughter loves her teacher; son adores his. In fact, wife and I feel very lucky about the two instructional leaders in their lives. See, what makes them special is their ability to demonstrate that they care about their students. Daughter feels like she has a friend; son feels safe to express himself and try new things. Teaching high school is different, of course, than the primary grades. Some teachers still try to win popularity contests but the “nurturing” stage is gone. In Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Mr. Hand forces Jeff Spicolli to give away the pizza he ordered that disrupted class and my favorite of all time, he went to the student’s house to make up for all the missed time Spicolli skipped.

Everyone says the world is going to hell, that the next generation of youth is paving the proverbial road. Truthfully, Poe saw this 150 years ago. Granted, he was a bit disturbed, to say the least. Kids today are the same as when I was their age; all I thought about was myself and where the next party would be held. Now that I lead children, I find myself wondering: if I spend every year teaching and get only one complaint (that I at least know about) countered with one praise then how can I be unhappy?

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