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Teaching. Or Not.

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“You still like the teaching job?” friends often ask.

I’m stymied by the question because I don’t recall ever telling anyone that I liked teaching. I don’t actually know if I like it or not. Do I even teach?

The other day a little blonde girl flounced past me on her way to hang up her jacket, which I had asked her to do. “You’re not a *real* teacher,” she said in a challenging but slightly uncertain tone, like you might say, “There’s no Santa Claus, right?” hoping against hope you didn’t just jeopardize your Christmas Eve visit. She wasn’t sure, but she had a hunch that I did not have the authority of her real teacher.

I sighed. She had a point. I mean, is a substitute a “real teacher ?” I usually feel more like a glorified babysitter with a seating chart.

Every once in a while I get to act like a real teacher — to stand up and say stuff to the class that is more than just “Quiet down” or “Sit down” or “Clean up.” But I’m usually spending so much time trying to control the 2 or 3 wildest kids that I have no time to do more than give cursory instructions to the rest of the class. It doesn’t seem to be getting better as I approach my one-year anniversary of being a substitute teacher.

The little blonde girl’s teacher said to me, “You are a real teacher and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.” I appreciated the support, but that same teacher has told me in so many words, “Our standards for subs are really just to make sure nobody gets seriously hurt.” So much for teaching.

I don’t know if I’m a good substitute; I do know I could get better. I also know that another sub at my school fled the building in tears in the middle of the school day and was never seen again. At least I haven’t done that. Yet.

Thing is, I don’t feel like a “real pastor” or a “real writer” either. I have multidimensional Imposter’s Syndrome or whatever it’s called. So who knows? Maybe I am a real teacher. I wonder if I’ll ever get good enough at classroom management so that I can teach a lesson.

Here’s the truth, though, and why my friends probably assume I like teaching. I love the children. I really love them. Even the misbehaving ones, the ones who test me and flounce by me — even the little boy who peed on a stuffed animal the other day.

When I zig-zag down the hall, dodging streams of rambunctious knee-high kindergartners and carelessly nonchalant middle schoolers, I feel . . . joy. There’s no other word for it.

So you tell me: do I like teaching?

My First Protest: May 6th, 1970

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I was scared, of course. We all were. Just a few days before, four kids had been shot dead and nine wounded by the National Guard on the campus of Kent State in Ohio, and nothing seemed safe anymore. Our nation and our family dinner tables were in complete chaos.

May 4th, 1970. Photo courtesy of Kent State

May 4th, 1970. Photo courtesy of Kent State

I had just turned fifteen and probably wasn’t in much danger of being shot on the steps of Kensington Junior High School, but my pulse was pounding and I felt sick as our group moved down the yellow-tiled hall. We were mostly the “good kids,” certainly not the type to walk out in the middle of a school day without permission.

But those pictures from Kent State haunted us — they looked like our older brothers and sisters. I remember wanting desperately to show solidarity with my big brother who was at college in Texas. I knew he was marching.

The Kent State students shot on May 4th had been protesting Nixon’s announcement that he was expanding the Vietnam war by sending troops into Cambodia. It was now May 6th, and we were joining thousands of college students boycotting classes in a nationwide strike to protest Kent State and the Cambodian invasion. More than 500 campuses had been shut down, including the entire university system of California.

Confronting Authority

It was lunchtime when about a dozen of us ninth graders moved uncertainly towards the big man in the black suit whose outstretched arms blocked the front doors. He looked like a buzzard with his sharp nose and cold eyes and long arms. We had not anticipated the principal’s presence when we planned our walkout.

One brave girl spoke up. “We’re leaving, Mr. Gaub. Please let us pass.”

Mr. Gaub cleared his throat but did not lower his arms.

“It is my duty to tell you that if you walk out this door, you will have an unexcused absence. This will go on your permanent record and could affect your grades.”

We stood just a few feet from him and he looked each of us in the eyes. “I know who you are; I know your names,” he said. He cleared his throat again. “And I’m proud of you.” He dropped his arms and we marched past him into the sunlight.

We milled around in the parking lot for a while chanting “Out Now” and feeling very grown up. Then we walked up to the 7-11 store for cherry cokes and red licorice. After all, we were just kids.

A "good kid" finding her voice

A “good kid” finding her voice

In memory of Stanley Eugene Gaub, February 8, 1925 – January 6, 2009. Thank you and rest in peace.

mr gaub

Unfriending a Facebook OOPS

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Although I doubt I’m going to my upcoming high school reunion, perusing the Facebook page has been a blast. Lots of old familiar faces, with an emphasis on the “old.”

One guy, who will remain nameless because I’m about to cast aspersions, especially caught my attention. We were in school together all the way through, twelve years. I had a crush on him in fifth grade. Course, I had a crush on a lot of guys in the fifth grade.

Anyway, there was his smiling face and without thinking, I clicked the Friend button. A few minutes later, I was confirmed and decided to visit his page.

You can tell a lot from the places someone visits. He lives in Florida now. Let’s see – Sand Trap Bar, Roo’s Pub, Party Central, Sail Inn Bar, Heads and Tails Lounge . . . all over a twenty hour period. Hmmm. Either this guy is a busy peanut salesman or we may have an issue here. It’s not even a weekend.

Lots of baseball and beer posts. Yawn.

Uh-oh.

Strike one: Posting a photo of a typical traffic tie-up on the D.C. Beltway (which is actually from 2008) and claiming that the Truckers for the Constitution have shut down the city and the liberal media is hushing it up. Well, I don’t know, I guess there are worse things than conservative conspiracy theorists. I have a few other Facebook Friends like that.

Traffic in 2008 that has nothing to do with the fact that only a couple of truckers showed up to “shut down D.C.” last weekend.

Strike two: A photo of a red and white Obama urinal-target poster with an additional comment, “Let’s impeach the Kenyan!” Don’t tell me he’s one of these guys who thinks Obama isn’t an American . . . oh, it gets even better: “Get the Taliban out of the White House!” Oh wow – here’s a photo of a dog taking a crap and the President of the United States is coming out of its rear end. Thanks for that. Seriously, this guy has retained his scatological fifth grade humor.

I’m kind of fascinated by people like this. I consider staying “friends” with him just to keep an eye on the breeding grounds for future Tea Party nut cases. But then:

A big strike three: He posts a photo of two young black guys in the VFW where he had gone to have a few quiet drinks with “people like him.” He leaves the VFW after protesting that they aren’t enforcing the veterans-only rule and should not welcome “self-entitled persons” like those pictured. He muses that the reason these guys don’t have a job is because they couldn’t pass drug tests. It apparently doesn’t occur to my ex-friend that the guys might be military. Or even employed.

African-American Soldier

I’m sorry to share this unpleasant story. Maybe you see a lot of this; I don’t, thank God. I just wanted  to remind my white friends that racism is far from dead. People of color already know this. I won’t even go into the comments from this guy’s other “friends.” Suffice to say, the N Word is alive and unashamed in Florida.

Unfriend.

African-American President: Get Over It

African-American President: Get Over It

Official White House Obama photo by Pete Souza

Colin Powell photo in public domain

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