Monthly Archives: May 2015

Reflection: annus horribilis

I think I’ve finally discovered the reason why I haven’t been speaking to you lately — and by “lately,” I mean with any regularity since last September. I should have noticed it or connected the dots long ago, but at 3:00 this morning, as I flopped around like a trout, unable to shut off my brain, it came to me: I’ve been too sad to write. Too angry, too disappointed, too worried, too wounded — too tired. In short, as I told someone last week, of the 22 years I’ve put in as a public school teacher, this one goes down as the absolute worst. And that can make a person mighty weary.

Writing RtB is an expression of my fascination with life. “Lately,” being me hasn’t been so fascinating, so I resisted writing about it. It’s that simple, and it starts and ends with what’s been happening at work.

I’ve watched my students endure abusive and wrong-headed testing to the point of simply giving up on school and choosing to no longer care. Many of my colleagues — some of the best teachers I know — drove home every day feeling more defeated, devalued and beat down than they ever imagined was possible. I will stop there, as I won’t share any more details in a public forum, but those of you who have walked this journey with me these past months know what I mean. Suffice it to say that the consummate failure of education policy in this country has steamrolled more than just careers. It’s affected everything.

Disasters like 2014-15 can’t help but seep into one’s personal life, but I’m delighted to say that my family and friends are wonderful, proving over and over that they are a safe port in the worst of my storms. They made my time away from school peaceful and fun, which made going into work less stressful than it could have been. Furthermore, in spite of all the poison around them, my students made some great music and gave a wonderfully supportive community two fine theater productions. They persevered, and truly inspired me in my dark hours. And there were plenty of dark hours.

I have struggled with not feeling bitter and angry, because I know it just hurts me. Those at fault couldn’t care less about how I feel (or how any teacher feels), so why am I wasting time and energy allowing them to control my day? That particular epiphany landed hard at around 4:30, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since, with increasingly positive mental results. And now, at 6:22 a.m., I’m happy to report that basically, it’s fine. I’m fine. I plan to make 2015-16 the best year possible, and I will begin by completely excising all toxic, negative, destructive forces from my professional life. We can control only so much of our “space” at work, and the goal is to make the best of what I can control, and stop raging so much at what I can’t.

That’s not to say that there’s no fight left in the dog, mind. If I’m an advocate for my students, I’ll never stop campaigning for their fair treatment with regard to people with no knowledge or experience in education making policy decisions, and since I’m now president of my local teacher union (shocked, are ya?), there’s plenty of advocating to do on the teacher side as well.

For now, though, it’s all good, fiends. The real stars of the school year were the kids, who made me happy and proud. A huge shout goes out to their parents as well, and to my fellow teachers. We will weather this storm, and the forces that caused it. Le jour de gloire est arrivé!


So. The Thriller and I — against our better judgment because we have a ton of home improvement projects to finance — need to get away this summer. Since we’re all up in the air regarding a trip to Europe (tentatively scheduled for next summer, but…), we’d like to take a one-week road trip someplace, but we can’t figure out where.

Originally, we thought about Mackinac Island. You know, stay in the Grand Hotel, see the beautiful grounds. But then…meh. I dunno.

We briefly talked about Yosemite, because strangely enough, on both of our western US odysseys, we never went there. We just weren’t in the right place at the right time, so we couldn’t squeeze it in. And of course, if we go west to northern California, we would stop in and see Kay & Bob. But we’re still not sure how the summer’s going to shake out.

So tell me: where would you go if you could take a road trip right now? What’s interesting to see? We’ve been to the 48 contiguous, but certainly haven’t seen anything approaching “everything.”

We’re not beach people, although we love to visit beachy areas where there’s other stuff to do.

Any suggestions? We’re open. And have I told you we’re down to nine (9) school days left?



Seems like I took one, it’s been so long. But I thought about you every day. :-)

I need to make a book. Not write one, but rather have what I’ve already written made into a book.

I’m afeared that despite my best efforts, my WordPress database will someday do a giant hara-kiri, and I’ll be left with no history of this silly little venture: my blog about nothing. I don’t want to see that happen, even though it likely never will, what with all the redundancies WordPress and I have in place. Still…

There are several blog-to-book applications out there, but next to none for self-hosted blogs, like RtB. (A self-hosted blog is where you use your own domain space, as opposed to using that of Blogger or Tumblr or I happened to find Anthologize, a WordPress plug-in, to complete the task. It’s not perfect by any means, but it might be worth a shot, once I get the time to sit down with it and catalog the site by month, from 2008 forward. Not that anyone would put that on their Christmas/Hanukkah list. Ha. But it would be good to have in a just-in-case happenstance. Someday, my grandsons might want to read about how nutty I was.

So, when did I last go three weeks without speaking to you? I think never. Aprilis horribilis last month, chile. Lawd. You know something is really weighing on me when I don’t write for weeks on end. But it wasn’t all bad; I undertook an experiment with my high school choir, scheduling their spring concert almost a month earlier in the year (27 April). It worked. As the school year circles the drain in May, everything goes haywire. Athletic teams start playoffs, kids get stressed about finals and projects, seniors check out (some earlier than others, but most around the first of May), and it’s National Field Trip Month. In other words, May is just a big pack o’ nuts. Very little gets done.

To my absolute delight, I found that doing the performance in April not only presented the kids with less end-of-year stress, it revealed a surprising fact: they didn’t need until late May to rehearse the music. They were ready by the 27th of April. Same type of general programming (a motet, a couple of spirituals, and some pop titles), same length…but the finish line was weeks earlier. And they did quite well. Go figure.

So, while most of April was stormy, some parts shone, and I’m glad of it. The 2014-15 school year will undoubtedly go down in my professional history as the most unhappy and difficult. I never again want to spend that much of my workday feeling angry, frustrated and betrayed. As for the remaining 18 school days, I look forward to looking forward. Put this year to bed and call it a basic success, because some good art was made. What more could I want?