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17 December 2011


Many of my readers here are people who know me on Facebook—friends, classmates, former students. Sometimes people stumble on a post while looking for something else. I am grateful for readers however they arrive, but I fear some may be disappointed. This morning, for example, I had two hits from Norway resulting from searches for “drunk Einstein” on Google Images. It’s encouraging that two people looked (or perhaps one person twice?), but I don’t have a drunk picture of Einstein. I have a photo of Einstein laughing. I have a post called “Dirty Sex, Dirty Drunk” that is my most viewed post after Einstein, and I know this one attracts a lot of viewers who do not know me and probably are not looking for the sort of introspective post I deliver. A minute ago someone in Cambodia clicked on “Erotic” which isn’t an erotic post, but does argue that what gets labeled “erotic” most often isn’t.

A few months back, in one day I had over a hundred hits on a post called “Why You Don’t Want to Be a Teacher” that I can’t help thinking might have been an assigned reading for a college education class. I am a little sad that the follow-up post, “...And Why We Need You Anyway,” has never attracted the attention that first one continues to gather. A friend said she was going to quote from it in her retirement speech, and there are a number of reasons she might have chosen to do that, but in the end her love of the work overwhelmed her anger at how she was personally treated, and she abstained.

There are many people who will never read this blog that I have abstained from writing about, though the temptation is there. I know truly terrible stories about things done by people masquerading as upstanding members of their communities. I know many terrible stories about my students, and often these stories make a lot more sense when connected to the terrible stories about their parents.

The other day I sat in the office with a student who had been of concern to his resource room teacher because he'd been "dropping the ball" and failing to complete work. As tears rolled down his face, he told me his story. It seems his father had an acute health issue, then a recent relapse. His father's ex-girlfriend is still in the house and arguing with the dad all the time and the young man misses talking to his father and calling him (apparently phone conversations were important to them both) but the ex tossed his dad's phone and his mother was supposed to have him go home with that side of the family for Christmas but that doesn't look like it's going to happen. He could not stop crying. "I just want to get through one normal day... one normal period." So that was the problem. My principal sat with him after me, and I went to explain what has been going on to his teacher. By the end of the day he was making progress and smiling. I know this kid fairly well, I know he has a kindly heart and a good work ethic. He has been failed more than he has failed.

The week before Winter Break is always hard at my school. Students are excitable and irritable, vacillating between grins and worried frowns. Whether or not we actually had wonderful Christmases ourselves, or even celebrate this holiday, our culture impresses the notion that this is the most warm and wonderful season. It’s well to remember that when those expectations collide with a different reality—where we cannot be with family who are distant, estranged, or passed away—or where our holidays include hardship—illness, unemployment, separation—emotions can spin out of control. Before we know what’s happening we might be yelling or driving erratically, or crying in the office.

My advice: Tread lightly. Hum something comforting. Send a note or call or hug someone you like kind of a lot. Do something kind for someone you don’t even know. It will not be what anyone expected and it will be good.

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