Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Packing Up


For the past sixteen years, this (above) was my view as I looked out from my lectern at my classroom. This week I started packing it up. I have to have it all packed up by Friday, December 16th. Over Christmas Break, movers will take my stuff to my new room in the new building. I will be allowed to say good-bye to the room and give it the once-over on January 3rd. Then it gets roped off and becomes a demolition zone. 


This (above) was the view as you walked into my room. I'd feel a whole lot better if I was actually moving into my permanent room. But the room I'm moving to is only my temporary home. I'll be in a first floor corner room for two semesters. Then, next December (2017), I'll have to pack it all up and move to what will be my final stop on the second floor. 


So I won't be decorating the first next room very much. I'm going to keep it all pretty simple since I'll have to pack it up in a calendar year anyway. 


Here's the direct view (above) as you walked into my room. My Grandfather White made that lattice divider, one of the last things he made before his sight gave out. 


This is a view of my work space. My little office area back there in the corner. This room was very comfortable and was a second home. I'm going to miss it. The new room, both of them, will be corner rooms with four windows. I will be giving up some space and I'm losing carpet. But they will be very nice and decked out with a 70 inch monitor screen. The new wing will be great and when I move to my final room I'll have great views. But I will miss the old Temple of Doom a lot. It was a good home. 


Monday, December 05, 2016

Dolly


Saturday night we went to see Dolly Parton in Grand Prairie. I've never been a big Dolly fan, but my wife grew up loving her music. My wife, fearful that Dolly's touring days may not be long being that she's now 70 years old, wanted to go. So we bought tix and admittedly I was kind of meh about going. But man oh man I left that show extremely impressed.

Dolly Parton's talent is often overshadowed by her big hair, plastic surgery and out-sized personality. But her musicianship was on full display Saturday. She played guitar (both acoustic and electric), banjo, dulcimer, mountain flute, autoharp, harmonica and even the saxophone during her two hour set. Her songwriting skills have never been in question. Her connection to the audience is hard to fabricate. You can't conjure up charisma. She connects naturally and effortlessly. She's a showman (show woman?) in the truest since of the word. Saturday, she put on a show for the ages. 

Dolly is one of America's greatest entertainment icons. I've been thinking of who else would fit on that list, American entertainment icons who span decades, changed their art form, performed across many mediums and had success across genres.

Here's a few I'd put on the list along with Dolly Parton...

Elvis Presley
Will Rogers
Louis Armstrong
Frank Sinatra
Bing Crosby

These guys were big in music or movies or TV. Will Rogers even had a column in the New York Times. We need some more women on that list. 

I've had trouble coming up with other American artists so iconic over a long period of time. Willie Nelson is close and maybe Johnny Cash. If the Beatles were American, they'd be on the list. Charlie Chaplin comes close but he seems too pinned into one medium. There's been big stars who've had huge influence. But many of them are focused in one art form. Many of them are tied to only one era. It's a fun question to think about. I know I'm probably leaving off some big time names that are pretty obvious. 

Dolly definitely belongs on that list even if her music is not necessarily the music I listen to a lot. I like her stripped down blue grass the most. But on Saturday night, we were all moving to everything she did on stage. I've been to a lot of great concerts...but that was a transcendent experience. 


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

New Digs


So a friend of mine in the District Administration was able to swing a private tour of the new high school currently under construction. We will be moving into my wing this January. But the room I'll be moving in January will only be my room for a calendar year. Once they get the elevators operational I'll be moving to the second floor to what should be my permanent home. Seriously, there is a chance that room could be the last classroom I ever have. There's a good possibility I'll retire in that room. I only have ten years left if I retire when eligible. The rooms are a little smaller than what I've been in for the past sixteen years. And they won't have carpet. I may have to add some cheap Persian looking rugs...but not until I move into my permanent space.

Below, will be my view once I move upstairs in January 2018. Staff parking will be directly below so I'll be able to keep an eye on my truck. This corner room has four windows and very nice views. This January I will be moving into a first floor corner room. It will be nice, as well, with four windows. But I'd rather be upstairs. It will be chaotic. They are giving us one day to move. January 3rd. We're not allowed until then. Students come back January 4th. May be quite a scramble. And that's if they actually get it done in time!



















Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Cobras



My Dad's favorite car was the 427 AC Cobra. Whenever we see one, my son and I try to take a picture next to it if possible, to honor his memory. Sunday we stumbled upon two (the other one is in the background to the right) at the annual Turkey Trax Auto Show right around the corner from our house at the local park. These were the real deal, no kits. 


Dad always loved auto shows and particularly Cobras and Mustangs. They had at least twenty Mustangs. This is the 1968 390 Mustang GT fastback in Highland Green...the kind driven by Steve McQueen in the classic movie Bullitt. Kinda cool to be able to just walk a few minutes from our house and see so many great cars. Dad would have loved it. We've been going to this show for several years since its so close by. Now it means even more. 


Monday, November 14, 2016

I'm For Them, I'm With Them

                                         

After Brexit there was a rise in hate crimes against ethnic minorities in Great Britain. There were many dimensions to the Brexit vote but fear of mass immigration seemed to dominate many of the reasons why British citizens voted to leave the European Union.

To show support for the many ethnic groups under attack in the days following the Brexit vote, many citizens began wearing safety pins to show others that they were against this type of racist behavior and that they were a safe person for those needing support in tumultuous times.

After the election of Trump, the safety pin movement quickly migrated to America. Many Americans began wearing the safety pin to demonstrate their support for those mocked, ridiculed and threatened by the Trump campaign. The safety pin showed that the wearer was a person of safety. It is a symbol meant to instill confidence in those threatened that not everyone feels the same way as Trump and his supporters.

Of course, detractors say it's a useless symbol and worry that it gives the wearer a free pass thinking they're doing their part in fighting racism and bigotry. They believe that action is needed, not symbols.

But I believe symbols are important. Of course action must accompany symbols or they lose their power. But I work and teach with a lot of people who feel threatened by Trump's rhetoric. They are worried, legitimately worried about their place in Trump's America.

So I will be wearing a safety pin. I want my students to know that I am a safe person. I want them to know my classroom is a sanctuary. I want them to know that the main reason I'm in this classroom is for them. I'm for them. I'm with them.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Results

The past two days I've heard, seen and read a lot of entitled white folks telling people to shut up and accept the results of the election.

That's fine sentiment coming from a position of power. That's fine talk when you are white. As a white male I know full well the power of white privilege in this country. Don't pretend it doesn't exists.

Ever wonder why I've never been stopped by the wal-mart "guard" as I exit the store, when I see them stopping the African-American family or the Hispanic family right before or after me? Or when I've been given a free pass on a traffic violation when my African-American friend gets a ticket BY THE SAME COP for the same violation? Or when a Chick-Fil-A manager gets on to my African-American friend's son in the playground when it was actually a white kid bullying others? I could go on and on. These are events I have seen with my own eyes.

You won, white America. Now, stop talking for a moment. Stop trying to educate. Stop trying to explain yourself for a moment. Stop score boarding. For a moment, just a moment...listen. Be gracious for a moment.

I'm against violence. And I believe in respect. But I also believe people have the right to peacefully express their opinion without being told to quiet down. Peaceful protests enact serious change. Whether or not you liked Hillary, the fact remains a racist demagogue was just elected as President. Whether or not you feel he was the better option, it still doesn't change the fact that he has offended everyone from Muslims to the Handicapped. My sister is handicapped so I sometimes take these things personally.

Try telling the the Hispanic girl in my class who is crying because she's sincerely afraid of being deported because Trump threatened to rescind an executive order that gave her the right to be here, why she is wrong.

Try telling a young girl that the man who said horrible things about enjoying assaulting women, why it was okay to vote for him.

Try telling the Muslim girl, who was elected Homecoming Queen this year at my High School (in Texas no less!), why she shouldn't be afraid of a man who threatened to ban Muslims from the U.S.. By the way, he made that ban statement while she was out of the country for a week to attend her sister's wedding in Pakistan. She would not have been allowed to return to the country or my school if his ban had actually existed.

They can say they voted for economic reasons or pro-life reasons or whatever. They can say they voted because one candidate was corrupt. But the fact remains that when the Ku Klux Klan celebrates the victory of a candidate, we should all be ashamed.

Get out of your white suburb and your white social circle and your white family for a moment. Get out to the real world. Talk to my students who are scared. And tell them again why you voted the way you did.

Don't tell them to quiet down in the white paternalistic tone so prevalent in our culture.

Console them. Perhaps even apologize. You can lecture on social media or in letters to the editor. But look at my students in the eye and explain to them why you voted for Trump.

And you better hope they show greater respect and cooperation Obama was shown the past eight years.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Resolved

I must admit there have been times in recent years when I have been tempted to move to another high school to teach. Most of these other high schools that caught my eye have been schools with wealthy populations. And overwhelmingly white.

I admit that working in a diverse Title One District, that I have to drive 25 minutes to get to, has sometimes beaten me down. The challenge to teach students from difficult backgrounds can often be daunting, even after eighteen years. I have been discouraged to see some of my colleagues at wealthier districts having comparatively easier times coaching their students to excellent AP Exam or SAT scores. I have been temped to leave many times for greener environs.

And I did leave once. Ten years ago I left my school and taught for a year at the wealthiest public school in Texas. It was a good year. My fellow staff members were fantastic. My students much easier to teach in many regards. Getting high test scores was a breeze. But I was missing something not working with under-privileged kids. And the next year I returned back to the school where I had begun my career and where I teach today.

But even in the last decade since I returned I admit growing weary at the challenge of teaching dis-advantaged students. It's hard.

But yesterday's election results re-awakened me. Yesterday, my Hispanic, Islamic and African-American students had a look of fear and disappointment in their eyes. America had picked a man who had openly and regularly insulted their race or religion. This man had threatened to deport them, their families and friends. This man had suggested implementing a ban on allowing people of their religion to enter the country. This man had joked about sexually assaulting women.

One may have disagreed with Hillary's political positions and voted for that reason alone. But this action also showed support for a man who to many of my students poses an existential threat. Voting against Hillary was a vote for man endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan...a terrorist group. You may have disagreed with Hillary, like I do on many issues, but voting for her probably did not pose a threat to your existence, your race or your religion.

Honestly, as a middle class white male, Trump's election will probably not effect my daily life too much. That's an unfortunate truth in a nation where white males to a great degree still have undeserved privilege compared to other ethnicities. But to many of my friends and students, their way of life may be in danger.

They need support. They need defenders. They need someone on their side. So yesterday, after getting past the initial and overwhelming disappointment, after getting over my anger and disgust with my fellow Americans and fellow "Christians" who voted for Donald Trump, I became resolved that I'm exactly where God wants me to be.

I am going to redouble my efforts to teach tolerance, respect and empathy for other cultures in my World History classes. I'm going to provide a safe sanctuary for my minority students. I am going to let them know that there are people here who will fight for them and defend them and stand with them. I am going to do my best to educate the poor whites in my school who so often fall prey to patterns of racist and bigoted behavior because they are feeling increasingly isolated.

I got into this profession to educate and empower. And I am privileged to be in a position to help those who need it the most. I will love them and fight for them and give them the strength and tools to reach their full potential in this life.

I'm not going anywhere.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

no words

I guess I didn't understand the depth of racism in America.

Today I am ashamed.

Hillary was a obviously a flawed candidate. But to vote for xenophobia, racism, sexism, adultery, tax evasion and bullying?

Here is the coalition that elected the 45th President: Uneducated White Males, The FBI, Wikileaks and Evangelical Christians.

They elected a candidate endorsed by the KKK and the Alt-Right Ultra-Nationalists.

As Glenn Beck said last night on NBC: "If this is what it means to be a Conservative or a Republican, I'm not sure I want to be either of those things any more."

Glenn Beck (!) said that.

I want all my Hispanic, Muslim, African-American, Handicapped, Immigrant and Female friends to know that even if my country doesn't stand beside you, I, for one, will. I will fight for you. I will stand alongside you.


Thursday, November 03, 2016

Well, Wow...


That was epic. Ten innings. A rain delay. Game tying home runs. Worn out pitchers. Close outs. Weird two strike bunt attempts. Game winning hits. Man, I'm tired this morning. That was a late game. Well worth staying up for. After I did finally get to sleep the power went off around 3 am due to a passing storm which woke me up. So I'm pretty groggy today. But that was a sight: The Chicago Cubs won the World Series.

My Dad must be up to something up there in Heaven. One month after he passes away the team he adopted as an adult, the Royals, win the title. A year later, the team he rooted for as a kid and teenager win their first title since the days of the Ottoman Empire. I wish he could have seen all this. 

Glad the Cubs won but I do feel for Cleveland fans. I believe they're cursed by the Chief Wahoo logo. They drop Chief Wahoo and they win a series. 

Happy to see Ben Zobrist win the Series MVP. He was an integral part of the Royals World Series run last year. He even named his baby daughter born after the 2015 series, Royal. But he moves on to Chi in Free Agency and helps the Cubs do the impossible. He's also an alum of Olivet Nazarene University. Good guy and good ballplayer. 

Only bad thing is that, like the Red Sox, the Cubs become just another team. No more curses. No more lovable losers. They are now just another big market team that has a lot of money to spend. Soon they'll be another evil empire. I mean I hope not...but that's the way these things often go. Amazing to think that Seattle hasn't even been to a World Series. The Nationals are still a young franchise so not surprising they haven't made it yet. And you've got the Rangers and Astros who haven't won the whole thing yet despite three appearance between the two. 

But man, the Tribe. Tough day. 

I did enjoy the throwback Harry Carey commercial at the end of the Series. Well played. Cubs Win! Cubs Win!



Wednesday, November 02, 2016

One Last Time...


Well, this is it. In about ten hours (from the time I'm writing this) I won't be able to say this so I'm going to say it one last time. Then I'll shut up about it until November 2017 when hopefully I'll be able to say it again...

The Kansas City Royals are the World Champions.

For about ten more hours.

I'm not really emotionally involved in this year's World Series. I'm glad to see two long suffering franchises getting a shot.

I'm going for the Cubs simply because that was the team my Dad rooted for as a kid growing up in Gary, Indiana. One of his uncles took him to Cubs games. Another one of his uncles hated the Cubs and took him to old Comiskey to see the White Sox. But my Dad always rooted for the Cubs although he always had a special fondness in his heart for the Sox. Nellie Fox, after all, was one of his all time favorite players. So was Ernie Banks. Dad had a signed photo of Ernie Banks hanging up in his home office. It's still hanging up there. In fact, it hangs next to a painting of the Cubs logo I made for him in high school art class.

My routine after school in my high school years was to come home, turn on WGN and watch Harry Carey and Steve Stone broadcast Cubs games. I would do my homework while watching the last few innings of Cubs baseball. I liked the Cubs and always hoped they'd win. But my heart was always with the Royals. Still, if I had a National League team to root for, it was the Cubbies. My senior year I had the privilege of attending a game at Wrigley with two of my best friends. It was a fantastic experience. Wrigley is a beautiful ballpark. This was in 1990 and we even got to see Harry Carey lead "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch. I even wore a Cubs hat from time to time.

The only thing that keeps me from really getting into this series is the sheer number of bandwagon Cubs fans. So ridiculous. Also, Chicago is a huge market and the Cubs have the highest payroll in baseball. It's hard for me to root for a big market team with huge monetary advantages over the majority of the league. The Cubs are in danger of simply becoming a mid-western version of the Yankees. It was easier for me to like them when they were lovable losers.

So yeah, I'm leaning Cubs...with my history I should probably be even more engaged. But I won't feel too badly if Cleveland takes it all tonight. Their fanbase has been through it as well. I'm glad it's gone to seven games. Gonna be epic.