Power Up

 Most of the time, I’m dragging as a teacher.  I have so much to do.  At times, I wonder that anything gets done.  And I’m not a lazy teacher, there’s just a lot going on.  I’m getting into the habit of finding specific times to power myself up.  I’m reminded of old video games I used to play, Mario Bros. really, where there would be a mushroom that would make you big or a bouncing star that would make you go faster.  I don’t see sliding mushrooms or bouncing stars around anywhere in my school to power me up, to give me that little something extra to, well, to make me feel better about teaching.  So I create them.  

She did not know I had this planned.  Two teachers helped me in that they gave up time in the theater for my class.  It was a journal entry.  A student wrote they had not been able to play the piano since coming to America.

“I love playing the piano,” she said.  “I wish others knew how good I am.”

I told everyone to sit down, an automatic audience in the theater.  I pushed the piano out and removed the black cover over it.  I set the bench for her.  And it was at about this point, that the look of “all of this is for me” flushed her face.

Yes.  Just for you.

We had fifteen minutes of class time left.  Usually I give my classes breaks but not today.  We were ending with one, waiting for the bell to ring and watching a girl play piano like two close friends who haven’t talked to each other in months.

Teaching, for the rest of the day, was a cinch.

 

Unfriended

I couldn’t honestly tell you whether I’ve been unfriended on Facebook.  For one, I’ve not gone through my list of friends to research who is missing.  I’m just way too busy for that kind of research.  However, I gather that most of the people who have unfriended me have been offended by my posts that deal with Christianity, politics or morality.  Apparently we’re not supposed to talk about these things.  Okay.

But then I think about Jesus.  He was unfriended by lots of folks.  In John 6:48-51, Jesus says

I am that bread of life.  Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.  I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

Not only were the Jews confused by what he said but his disciples were also.  Scripture says

When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? (John 6:61).

I don’t know how long these folks followed the Lord.  I don’t know if they witnessed his miracles, his speaking, his life.  They walked with him physically which is something believers today cannot relate to.  However, when the Lord talked about being the bread of life and eating his flesh and drinking his blood, that was way too much, apparently.  

From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him (John 6:66)

As believers today, we cannot be concerned, distracted or hurt when people stop following us on Facebook or offended by our beliefs.  If they stop following us, it is okay.  We should be able to disagree with civility.  We should never feel animosity, hatred or disdain for anyone who disagrees with us.  The Lord’s words of Luke 6:31 still and forever apply:  “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”  We would also do well to heed the Apostle Paul’s words when he says, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).  Love God by being bold for him and love people – period.  If they are through with you, wipe the dust from your feet, love them, pray for them, but move on.  Be about your Father’s businesss.

In the words of that great theologian P-Nasty, Christian, “You do you” and let others be.

On Writing from The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

A close friend in California read this book in college and I remember him telling me how great it was.  I was reading something a while ago which mentioned this book so I decided to check it out from the library.

I love when I am reading a book and the writer digresses a bit to talk about the writing process, how they see it and how it works for them.  As I read The Things They Carried, I came across this passage below.  O’Brien writes:

I feel guilty sometimes.  Forty-three years old and I’m still writing war stories.  My daughter Kathleen tells me it’s an obsession, that I should write about a little girl who finds a million dollars and spends it all on a shetland pony.  In a way, I guess, she’s right.  I should forget it.  But the thing about remembering is that you don’t forget. You take your material where you find it, which is in your life, at the intersection of past and present.  The memory traffic feeds into a rotary up in your head, where it goes in circles for a while, then pretty soon imagination flows in and the traffic merges and shoots off down a thousand different streets.  As a writer, all you can do is pick a street and go for the ride, putting things down as they come at you.  That’s the real obsession.  All those stories. (p.33)

Sentiment can trap a writer.  I don’t necessarily find things to care about and write about them.  Those things are already within me.  They’re like a child that rises in the morning and says, “Here I am.  Good morning.  Write about me.”  But who wants to write about the same thing all the time?  O’Brien says, “But the thing about remembering is that you don’t forget.”  Ain’t that the truth.  I could see why O’Brien would be drawn to war writing: he was in one.  Experiences like those you don’t forget.  It’s day in, day out.  It’s separation from family.  It’s death, the fog of war, the loss of friends, the loss of control.  War leaves a heavy fingerprint.  Some never figure anything out, there’s no communication, verbal or written.  It all gets repressed.  Someone snaps.

With writing, there’s figuring.

The intersection of past and present is crossed sitting down, wherever to write.  I am drawn to what I know and to what I’ve lived.  Lately it’s where I’ve lived.  I write and travel.  I cannot visit California and so the stories take me there.  I grew up there, lived there, sentiment’s got me.  Home is hard to extract.  Fiction helps.  Memoir pulls you in, laces its arm within yours and says, “Let’s go.”  With fiction though, you can get farther from sentiment, especially that one thing, that topic-stalker with ego.

Day in and day stuff, work, family, home are large and always there.  One could always write about these things.  One could say the same things over and over yet still have so much to say.  To say these things are important is not enough.  That’s evident but why say anything more?  Because life changes, circumstances change, people change.  And everyday, we miss something because we can’t say or see it all.  Maybe that’s why we go back.

To not write about the same thing over and over, doesn’t require much.  Observe life and see the opportunities for stories everywhere.  Irony.  A lifeguard who can’t swim.  A milk man whose lactose intolerant.  Triangles.  Conflicts between three people.  Sit down and write.  It doesn’t take much but it sure is difficult.

 

 

 

Yo-yo

Before everything started, we waited in the lobby of the BSU Student Union.  After about ten minutes, one of our students from last year, who is now a student at BSU, walked by on her way to class.  It was perfect, divine, better than any planning I could conjure.  We high-fived her as she went to class.  It was such a high note, we could have left right then and there.  But we didn’t.

We were all supposed to wear red so we could stand out among the other people at a job and career event at Boise State.  It kind of worked, not everyone wore something red.  From a teacher’s perspective, today was great.  Students participated in mock interviews and received positive feedback from employers, from people they never met.  That’s huge when you are an English Learner.  They walked around and talked to vendors, asking them questions about their organization and questions like, “What keys of employability or traits do you look for in an employee?”  I gave them an assignment, they had tasks, they hated me for it at first.

“Can’t we just do everything without writing anything down?” one kid asked.

“No.”

“And we have to interview?”

“Yes.”

“But I haven’t practiced.”

“You are today,” I said, giving not an inch.

And then later, I peeked into the mock interview room.  There they were, one from China, one from Libya, two from Congo, one from Iraq with a hijab – sitting up, leaning forward, making eye contact, shaking hands when finished.  And then, they were very eager to show someone, anyone, the positive interview feedback.

At the vendor tables, they talked a lot.  Not so much at first because this was a new experience but probably not their last job fair.  Free swag galore – pens, pencils, highlighters, sunglasses, candy, candy and candy.  Girls got their hair did at the beauty college vendor, boys shocked each other with electricity at the STEM table and everybody just had to have the cool, black sunglasses Wells Fargo was giving away.  

At 12:30 p.m., we were finished and the bus was not showing up for another hour and a half.  The last thing you want teenagers doing is just waiting around, mischief might ensue.  Fortunately, we were in a building with a bowling alley, pool tables and big screens showing a soccer game.  Kids bowled for the first time ever, others wore their sunglasses as they looked down a long cue stick, pulling it back and forth like a piston, measuring how to hit the cue ball just right to send a solid or striped into a side or corner pocket.

Kids being kids.  Kids who work hard, laughing and playing, no stress.  They interviewed, handled their business and then they played.  It was a good day.  

*

Tomorrow I will proctor a standardized test, probably not designed with English Learners in mind.  I will have to watch frustration flood their faces from the front of the room as English defeats them.  I cannot help them.  I cannot explain anything.  It is cruel.  All I have is the teacher’s fall back dictum of, “Try your best” or “Don’t worry, it doesn’t affect your grade.”  Who knows what I will say.  But hey, at least they have four hours to finish the test.