December 17, 2010

I Was There When...

Have you ever watched a person tragically die right in front of your eyes? Have you ever been witness to an event that made the front page of newspapers all over the country? I have, and the experience is one that I will never forget. In fact all I have are my memories, because it happened before the advent of youtube, and there are no videos of the incident.

It was shocking, sad, and tragic. There are a lot of words that can accurately describe the situation, but "groovy" is not one of them. Unfortunately groovy is the word-o-the-day, so I won't be able to finish this story now. Hopefully there will be an appropriate word sometime later, because it really is interesting.

A lot comes to mind when I think of the word groovy, but I decided to focus on my "Top 3 Pop Culture References" that I think of when I hear that word.

3. Greg Brady as Johnny Bravo--As a child of the 70's, I have logged countless hours in front of the television set watching episodes of The Brady Bunch. Everything about this episode is groovy--from the vocabulary of the record producer, to the threads of Brady, as Bravo. The one thing that was not groovy, however, was Greg's initial decision to skip going to college. Fortunately, Greg realized that the producers only wanted him, because he fit the suit. It was a tough lesson for him to learn, but what's the Brady Bunch without a lesson in every episode?

2. Phil Collins's version of "A Groovy Kind of Love"--For one point, name the group that did the original version of this song in the 60's. For another point, name the movie (also starring Phil Collins) that had this song as a part of its soundtrack. The answers will be at the end of this entry.

This song is the perfect example of a song that was completely overplayed, during its heyday. It's also the typical example of the synth-pop kind of music that Collins was churning out at this time. It's unfortunate, that Collins has become synonymous with this kind of "Lite FM" stuff. Because when Collins was part of Genesis-and I'm talking in the Peter Gabriel days, he was a helluva drummer. I actually have a lot of respect for his musicianship, but not much respect for this stuff. But, you have to admit that some of it is pretty infectious.

3. "Groove is in the Heart" by Deee-Lite--First, a disclaimer....I am straight. With that being said, I freaking love this song. I love to dance, and this song is one of those wedding reception standards that I really enjoy. I mean what's not to've got Bootsy Collins, a chick in a unitard, Q-tip doing a rap, and a slide whistle. I know that this is a bold statement, but I would venture to say that this is my favorite song ever to feature the slide whistle.

Before I end this entry, I have some unfinished business. The group that did "A Groovy Kind of Love" was The Mindbenders, and the name of the movie was "Buster." If you knew both of those answers, I would say congratulations. But it's actually kind of sad.

It's All About the Destination

Overly rigid and closed-minded people drive me nuts. They almost piss me off as much as handicapped bathroom stalls that open inward, but not quite.

I know plenty of people that are super-structured and rigid, and they are great people. I just don't enjoy that aspect of their personality, and I'm sure that it drives them nuts that I am on the other end of the spectrum. They probably see me as being scatterbrained and directionless.

Now, I have mentioned before that I am laid-back, but that doesn't mean that I shirk responsibility or am habitually late. In fact I am usually early, because I always account for the five minutes, or so, that it takes for me to reassemble my wheelchair after I take it out of my car.

I have taken the Myers-Briggs personality test several times over the years, and I always score right in the middle in the dimension that measures spontaneity versus being structured. So, I do believe that it is important to have structures and procedures in the classroom. It just helps things run smoother if students know where to turn in work, etc..

My belief in life, and in the classroom, is that it really doesn't matter how you arrived at a destination. The fact that you got there, is the most important thing. Now please don't think I am talking about a "win at all costs" kind of attitude. I think that it's vitally important to reach the "ends" only after an ethical "means." I just think that there should be a sense of flexibility in those means.

I have encountered so many teachers over the years that believe that there is just one way to accomplish a certain goal. I think that's b.s. There are tons of different ways, and according to the lyrics of Diff'rent Strokes (penned by Alan Thicke, by the way) "What might be right for you, may not be right for some."

But what my laid-back personality all boils down to, is this one fact...I don't mind chaos.

I love it when I have five different things going on in my classroom. I really enjoy giving my students plenty of choices when I want them to do a project. I also make a lot of my assignments open-ended, and this drives my super-structured students nuts! So to appease them, I tell them specifically how I want them to do the assignment, and it makes them feel better.

During my first year of teaching, I had a supervisor that was incredibly rigid. For example, she would criticize my lesson plans because they weren't as thorough as her's. She showed me her plans one day, and I was shocked at how she wrote everything down. She included all of her terms, definitions, examples, etc. It was more like a script than a plan.

She wanted me to do it that way too. Since I was a first-year teacher, I relented, but I hated it. My feeling is is that if I already know that profit is revenue-expenses, why the hell should I have to write it down in my lesson plan?!? But she didn't see the logic in that argument.

But realistically I know that the rigid people are always going to be rigid, and the laid-back people (like myself) are always going to be laid-back. But the world would be a much better place if we just forgot about the little details, and we just focused on the end product. Well that's at least how I see it, and it's my I win. :)

December 15, 2010

C'mon Friday!

This has been a great semester, overall. I have great students, and some of my classes are so good that I am convinced that I could probably go home, and then come back to find them still working and on task.

Every teacher always has one class each semester that is not quite up to the level of the others. There has to be a challenging class, otherwise things would be just too easy. I have a class like that, but this class isn't just challenging....they're abysmal. Now, I have had rougher classes when I taught middle school, but these guys take the cake at the high school level.

I am an incredibly patient person, but they are exasperating beyond belief! The class is loud, very immature, and content with mediocrity. They aren't motivated to work hard, because they just don't give a damn.

The class also has a mixture of students that is really challenging. I have multiple students with special needs, four students that come from broken homes and/or foster care, and an inordinate number of freshman. I believe that if these students were mixed into other classes, they would be able to behave. But this mixture has created a kind of "perfect storm."

But, alas, I only have to put up with them for 90 more minutes! Their final will be on Friday, and my class is only for a semester. So I am done with them after Friday!

Over the last few years, I have often thought about becoming an English teacher. However, I love being an elective teacher for many reasons. The fact that I only have to deal with rotten classes for one semester is reason number one!

Flibbertigibbet?!? Seriously?!?

So this post has to be about the word flibbertigibbet. Up until yesterday, I had always thought that this was just a made-up, nonsensical word. I was wrong. It actually means "A silly, scatterbrained, or garrulous person."

I'm actually a big fan of silly and scatterbrained people, because it's just so easy to prank them or give them a hard time. What's even better is that most of the time, they don't even realize what you are doing to them either.

While I don't regard many of my students as being flibbergibbety (if that is a word), I still like to have fun with them, nonetheless. Over the years, I have played some pretty good pranks. Here is one of my favorites:

When I taught middle school, I shared a classroom with another business ed. teacher. We were both full-time teachers, but we only had one dedicated business classroom. So one of us was always teaching in a regular teacher's classroom, while the other was in the business ed. room. It wasn't ideal, but we made it work.

When either one of us was on our prep hour, though, we would hang out in the business classroom. So I got to watch Chris teach a lot, and he did the same to me. We were good friends, and we didn't mind this arrangement. We just had fun with it. One of the ways that we did that was by playing pranks on each either...and sometimes the kids.

One day, we each decided to casually mention to some students that our room, Room 150, was supposedly haunted. We even created a backstory and a a name for our spectre. Even though we each only mentioned the ghost to a few students, the rumor spread like wildfire right away.

We each had our own teacher desk and computer in the classroom, but we also had one desk and computer in our storage closet. So one day, I went into the storage closet immediately after teaching 2nd hour. Chris had the room next, so his students came in for 3rd hour.

While he was lecturing, I used my computer to tap into the computer of a particular student. I started by just casually messing around with her desktop. She called Chris over, and he dismissed it as being nothing, but he did plant the seed about the ghost.

As the hour progressed, I started to do more things with her computer. It all culminated into me opening up Word and "communicating" with her. She kept accusing Chris, but he was up in the front of the classroom, and she had no idea that I was sitting in the closet.

We kept this going at random times in the hour, but I scared her too much when I described what she was wearing that day. Chris actually supplied this information to me when he came into the closet to "get" a box of staples. Anyway, after I did that, she ended up letting out a scream, and she got scared.

I felt bad about that, so I came out of hiding, and we let her in on the prank. Fortunately she was a good sport about it. We actually had chosen her on purpose, because we both knew that she was a great kid, and she would see the humor in it.

Chris and I pulled a few other pranks during the five years that we worked together, but the ghost one will always be my favorite.

Dear Inconsiderate Bastard,

The topic for this post is the word "apathetic." I am actually a couple of days behind, and technically, apathetic is supposed to be the word for Monday, but I have been procrastinating.

I actually wrote a blog entry right after the word was announced. It was the typical teacher rant about how kids these days just don't care. But, I wasn't happy with it, and I was actually hoping for a new source of inspiration to come along. I found it today.

I hardly ever get mad. I'm just a laid-back, even-keel, kind of guy. A lot of people might misconstrue that as being aloof or apathetic, and that's just not the case. There are some things that I care deeply about, but I feel that most things aren't worth getting upset about.

But something happened this morning, when I was trying to get to work, and I am still pissed about it. It even caused me to be about an hour late.

I park on a parking lot, and when I got out to my car today, I discovered that some jackwagon in a red Dodge Caliber had decided to create his own parking spot about a foot away from my driver's side door! I can overcome just about any obstacle that I face because of my disability, but this kind of thing is like kryptonite to me.

So I sat outside and waited for someone, anyone, to come out to the parking lot. I needed to have someone back my car out of the spot for me. It takes a lot of trust to let a stranger get into your car, but it's something that I've had to do a few times, over the years.

Unfortunately the parking lot was completely empty. I was cold, and I went inside to knock on the door of a neighbor that helps me out a lot. Unfortunately, he didn't answer.

I ended up calling the local police department to help. Not surprisingly, the second after I hung up with the dispatcher, everyone started heading out to the parking lot. Even my neighbor came out of his home. But, I wanted to wait for the police, so I declined his offer to help.

Long story short, the officer came, and she backed my car out for me. She ran the plates on the car, and unfortunately, they came up clean. I was really hoping that she would be able to bust them on something.

So now I am at work, and I wish I would have left a note for the owner of the car. Hence the name for this post. I shouldn't let this thing tick me off so much, but it really has. I don't think this idiot tried to do it intentionally. He wasn't trying to "screw over the cripple." People just don't think sometimes.

So while I am apathetic about a lot of things, there are some issues that clearly elecit a strong response from me. Most of the things that get me going aren't even disability-related. I have been doing the disability thing for so long that it takes a lot to get me upset.

With all that being said, don't get me started on the subject of handicapped bathroom stall doors that open inward!!

December 13, 2010

Hangin' With Dweezil

Last Wednesday, I experienced something that was jaw-dropping, mind-blowing, and just a helluva lot of fun. At the advice of a friend, I went with him to the "Zappa Plays Zappa" concert.

"Zappa Plays Zappa" is a tribute concert led by Dweezil Zappa, the son of the late Frank Zappa. I consider myself to be quite knowledgeable about music and music trivia, but up until that evening I had only heard a song or two by the man. All I really knew about him was that he was a long-haired artist from the 70's. Thankfully, during the concert, I learned that his legacy was so much more than that.

From the first note to the last, I sat in disbelief, as I watched a group of talented musicians tackle music that was incredibly complex and challenging. Even though I play piano and understand music, I was impressed, and confused, by the unique time signatures and multi-layered instrumentation coming from the band.

The music at times was melodic and beautiful, while other times it was a cacophony of unique sounds unlike anything that I had ever heard before. Jarring sound effects burst through the air to create a soundscape that was unique and wholly original.

Besides the obvious talent of the band members, the other thing that affected me the most was Dweezil himself. Here was a man that clearly understood the legacy of his father. He demonstrated a reverence toward Zappa's music, and yet he never deified his father to the crowd. He was more than content to be the leader of this "mutual admiration society" for the man.

Since last week's show, I have tried to learn as much as possible about the music of Zappa. With each new factoid that I have learned about him, I have gained more respect for his musical genius.

He was an incredibly prolific artist. During his lifetime, Zappa released a total of 62 albums--sometimes releasing an album every three months. These albums were not full of derivative pop drivel either. Each album was filled with multi-genre, complex songs that are still regarded by skilled musicians as being a challenge to play.

I don't anticipate becoming a hardcore fan of Zappa's and purchasing all 62 albums. With that being said, I do plan on becoming familiar with the "essentials" of his catalog. And you can bet your life that I will be at the next "Zappa Plays Zappa" concert that comes to town.

December 12, 2010

Available....But Not Looking

I have written many blog posts about dating and loneliness, in the past. The issue used to keep me up at night, and I would get sad about my singleness. Fortunately, as a result of some big life lessons, I no longer feel this way. I am content with my life.

Back in January, I dealt with some very scary health issues. I won't take the time to rehash the specifics, because I have already chronicled the ordeal in a previous blog post. But, the whole experience has been life-changing for me, and it has really caused me to reexamine my choices and feelings.

I used to have very low self-esteem, but this trial has helped me to realize that I do matter, and I need to treat myself with love and respect. I wasn't loving myself by gorging my body full of crappy food. Sure, it tasted great, but the fulfillment that I received from the gluttony was fleeting at best.

By loving myself, I have made some great strides in my life. I would love to report that I have dropped tons of weight since my hospitalization, but sadly that isn't the case. The weight has come off, but much more slowly than I want. What I am happy about is that my blood pressure is normal, and my diabetes has all but disappeared.

Even though I have been concentrating on myself as-of-late, that doesn't mean that I have completely stopped admiring the opposite sex. That part of me will never change. I'm just not fixated on trying to find a mate, and I'm concentrating more on making myself the best possible person that I can be.

After all, I may never get married and find a mate. But, I am stuck with myself for the rest of my life. I might as well make "me" the best possible "me" that I can be.