Tag Archives: teacher

Moving On

Both of my loyal readers know that I have been in pursuit of a particular dream for some time.

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Symbolic of my career.

When I’m not busy being Dad, writing, or trying to whip my broken body into shape; I work at a day job.  What’s funny is that this “day” job is a vocation for me.  It is, as I like to think of it, a pathway along the wider road of God’s plan for me.  For the past eleven years I have been a teacher in a Catholic high school (three of them, to be exact).  Initially I got into teaching because it was a job.  Somewhere along the line I realized I liked it.  Then I realized that I loved it.  Then I began to feel that I was good at it.  Finally I thought that I could be of use to God in a different way.  I got this crazy idea that I could be a pretty decent school administrator.

I went back to school and completed a second Master’s degree.  And then I went on the hunt.

And I got… nowhere.

I explained my frustration to my wife.  “It’s just that before this year, I had never interviewed for a job that I didn’t ultimately get.”  “That’s nothing,” she said, “I’ve never interviewed for a job.”  She pointed out to me that her first job out of college came about through a connection and she more or less advanced from there.

I put the dream aside, trying to convince myself of the words my best friend and brother, a guy I’ve known since our days in the college seminary.  He’s always told me “God’s timing is perfect.”  I used to laugh at him.  Most of the time, though, I’d think of how obnoxious a thing like that is to say to someone who’s trying his heart out and getting nowhere.  Yet somehow he knew.  I put the dream aside and figured I would get comfortable with something I already knew I loved.  I prepared myself to teach forever.

It’s funny to me how God does things like this.  It’s His time.  We’re just passing through it.  I even remarked to my current students that, on the whole, this has been the best group of high school juniors I have ever worked with.  I’ve always had it pretty easy and I’ve certainly had my stand-outs.  But these kids this year have been a real blessing.  They are kind, witty, caring, passionate.  I love each and every one of them.  God knew they’d be my last class as a teacher and He allowed me the grace of going out with the best.  Recently a few of them have met my beginning-of-year challenge.  “If you can find my blog, kids, you can read it.”  For those who are reading right now, first, isn’t this blog amazing?  You’ve never read anything this awesome.  It has changed your life.  Whatever, just lie and say yes.  Second, thanks for being the best.

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I think I made it.

I’m really going to miss them when I start my new job in a month as an assistant principal.  Oh, had I forgotten to slip that detail into the story?  Sorry.  Yes, I’m losing my summers and gaining a whole lot of responsibility but it’s everything I’ve wanted and I couldn’t be happier.  Please pray for me that I do a good job.

And what did my current students ask of me as a memento of my time with them?

Apparently I should make them a “mix tape”.  Go figure.  I didn’t even know they would know what a mix tape is.  Perhaps I’ll take them up on the suggestion.  I haven’t made one of those in forever.

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Another Why I Write

You (both of you) have been eagerly awaiting an update on my new workout so I’d like to take a moment to share.

Actually, my mind is a jumbled mess right now so I’d like to take a lot of moments to share (and sort) a lot of things.  Indulge me?  Look, I’ve been through a lot lately.  Consider it your work of mercy.

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If I didn’t blog, how would you ever see fun pics like this?

At work today where I joyfully bounced around between the spiritual battle raging all round us as relayed in Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters and the concept of authentic freedom as being something wholly different than license; the subject of this blog came up.  I don’t hide my blog from my students but I sure don’t advertise it either.  “If you can find it, you can read it,” I tell them.  I just like to keep things by and large separate on this one front as I feel I can be more authentically free that way.  A student asked “So why do you blog?”  I thought about it and said “I blog because I need to.”

The truth is that I do love to write.  As I said to my trainer-friend recently “Some men can move heavy weights around.  I play with words.”  Looking back I truly hope he didn’t take that as an insult as I always wanted to be able to one of the former and I greatly admire men like him who actually can move heavy weights around.  Weightlifting gives you an enviable body.  Writing can, well, let’s talk about that…

I write because I am a twin.  Sound odd?  OK, I was born, in all likelihood, speaking a secret language that only one other person understood.  So I spent the next few decades trying out different forms of communication to get my message across to a larger audience.  That period of monosyllabic grunts was kind of awkward for sure.

No?

OK.  Here it is.  I write because I love to write.  I don’t know who reads it and I don’t always care.  After my dad died I got a comment on a post about his funeral.  A woman said she had been reading for years and felt that she knew me and wanted to convey her sympathy.  I was touched.  I have never met her but we have a connection.  Words, you could say, are sacramental.  They make real in the physical world that which is invisible — namely our thoughts.  And when we write we are committing our souls to posterity.  It might not ever be very good writing but a piece of my mind and heart will live on as long as there are eyes to see it.  I have seen this so clearly over the past two months while reading The Chronicles of Narnia to my son at bedtime.  I have become enthralled with these books, with Lewis. I said to my son: “How amazing to think that this man wrote these books so long ago.  He’s dead but the thoughts in his mind are still speaking to us.  His brilliance lives.  The soul lives.”

To me, it’s fun.  I know what I’m capable of.  It is probably the only area of my life where I feel any measure of confidence.

I certainly don’t always feel that confidence in the gym (or the home gym as the case may be).  And that’s where we end for this post.  Did you really think I’d ramble on for 2500 words about a mess of different subjects with no underlying theme?  Ha.  Guess again.

Crazy Tuesday

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Look how neat and orderly my desk is. It is from this desk that I taught young minds today. It is also from this desk that I learned in an email that I have been asked to become a regular contributor to one of my favorite Catholic blogs. This means I’m back in the writing game! Good for me.

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This is a zipper truck. After my day at work I had the joy of sitting in traffic so bad that I practically wound up having a conversation with the zipper’s driver. On the bright side I got to study the inner workings of this monster.

And that was my Tuesday. Hopefully it meant something for the kids.

Bedtime is a Bitch

Today the world lost a comedy icon in the legendary Joan Rivers.  She was perhaps the only person I have ever seen in concert who simply made me laugh from start to finish.  I laughed so hard I cried.  I’m thankful for the happy memories of me, my mom, and my sister-in-law sitting in the front row of a casino theater in Shreveport being truly entertained by this woman who spoke from a mere ten feet away.

Now then…  let’s walk through the day, shall we?

This morning I got to work and prepared my classroom for the day.  It was the day of the first test for my juniors.  They were nervous and I understand that.  They’ve taken five quizzes already and the results were less than edifying.  Ever the concerned teacher acting in loco parentis I knew that today I would have to allay their fears, set them at ease, make them laugh a little.  The test was entirely online so there was the matter of making sure that all of the answer choices were spelled correctly so I didn’t look like the idiot.  Then I had to find a clip of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons on YouTube, set the SmartBoard volume a just the right level of “soft”, grab my coffee and a banana, and stand by the door to welcome them with my cheerful smile.  Faking all of this at that hour of the morning is a challenge but I pulled it off.  Mid-way through the test I saw a hand go up from the middle of the room.  The hand was attached to the powerful throwing arm of one of our best football players, a young lad of about 16 who, though by all appearances is quite confident and even more popular, I know is the same teenager we all were at one time — a little ill at ease in his own skin.  Look, what boy wants to ask for help ever?  More to the point, who wants to ask for help on a theology test of all things?  I mean, ever freakin’ answer is supposed to be “Jesus”, right?  Wrong.  So I gracefully tiptoed past the backpacks and laptop power cords and over to his desk where I knelt down beside him and asked in a gentle tone “What’s up, sir?”

“Um, Mr. H.?” he said pointing to the screen.  “What does ‘conceived‘ mean?”

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This could have gone so many different ways.  Fortunately I was on top of my game.  Realizing that the young man sitting next to me probably did not know that his question either revealed a complete lack of basic understanding regarding human reproduction or that he was wording the question incorrectly I thought for a microsecond.  If it was the former, he’d never live it down.  I mean, he’s on the football team for heaven’s sake.  If it was the latter, he might just look dumb and, even though he’d play it off, I could never allow that.  He’s actually a bright kid.

“Well,” said I, “you know when babies are born, right?”  He nodded his head and gave a puzzled look as if to indicate he knew he’d bitten off more than he had bargained for.  At this point every other student in the room was looking up from their laptops.  “So think back to what happens about nine months before that…”  I looked up in time to see the light bulb flickering above his brow.  But I couldn’t let this one go.  As I was standing up and preparing to walk away I tossed in “Son, your dad did have that talk with you, right?  Because that’s just a bit outside my pay grade.”  25 students (including the newly enlightened cornerback) laughed.  A moment later, the punter in front of him added his two cents.  “My parents tried to talk to me about that once and I just left the room.”  Again, moments like this are not to be wasted.  “You know my friend,” I shot back, “Don’t want to shock you here but they’re probably actually speaking from experience.”  He buried his head in his hands while covering his ears.  “And since I taught your sister a few years ago, I’d say probably on more than one occasion too.”  Score one for middle-aged married couples.

How is this getting to bedtime?  Stick with me.  Or don’t.  I don’t care.  I’m a stand-up comic.  I can get cheap laughs whenever I want.  And my audience LOVES me!

Ater work I took son to violin.  It’s a weekly struggle.  He’s naturally very good but he doesn’t love it.  On the ride he even told me “I don’t like violin!”  “But violin loves you,” I said from the front seat.  “In fact, I overheard it say that it wants you to take it to dinner and then to the movies.  Pretty soon you two will be married and have little half-little-boy/half-violin children.”  It’s always nice when I can make my boy spit out his drink.  Wish it hadn’t been at the back of my head while driving; but…

On our way home from his music lesson my precious precocious wonder-child started mentioning to me all the stores where I can purchase The Lego Movie for him.  “But son, we already have it.”  “No, Daddy,” he reminded me, “It was on-demand and Mommy said she’s getting rid of cable.”  Once again he was right.  I’m still not sure why we’re doing this.  I understand it will save money and my wife doesn’t care much for TV.  Still, it will be strange going back to “broadcast”.  Anyway, my young progeny, gears spinning in his mind, then inquired “Daddy, what’s cable anyway?”  “Well, little man,” I replied, “You know all those channels we have on the TV?  Well, we have to pay for them every month.  That’s cable.”  Silence followed for a few seconds.  In the rear-view I could see his face growing more and more irate.  Finally he blurted it out.  “Well what good is TV without any channels?!”  My sentiments exactly.

And finally, bedtime.  Well, that’s the reason I’m writing this.  My daughter is a sleep champ.  Son?  Not so much.  As it is currently just after 11PM and he has just gone to sleep you can see how the rest of my evening went.  And on that note I will remind you that Joan is still dead (sad), not every teenage boy knows about the facts of life (funny), and TV with no channels is just (dumb).

G’night!

I Told Them

I have been making sure that I keep my children informed about it.  It’s coming and I want them to know and not be afraid but to embrace it with the same spirit I am.

Oh, wait, you don’t know about it.  OK.  In all the confusion of the past 24 hours I forgot to write “part 2” of my story from last night.  Where was I?  Let’s see…  I didn’t want my wife to see me in such abject pain and suffering…  She had advised me to call the doctor.  I called the doctor.  OK.

Wilma (my mother-in-law) and I drove over to the doctor’s office.  It’s at a place called Medical City.  As a medical junkie, I kind of love this place.  I mean, it’s a whole city made of medicine.  I love it.  In reality, it’s a very large hospital complex in Dallas.  It’s where Larry Hagman died.  And, it’s where my doctors are located.

And these doctors, after hearing of my night offered me the following advice.

“We can get you in tomorrow.  Friday at the latest.”

It took me a second, too.  Yep, they were saying they wanted to get me in to the operating room for another spinal fusion the next morning.  You see, what had happened to me last night; yeah, that…  Wasn’t supposed to happen.  I wasn’t wrong to be freaked at how rapidly it had progressed.  Perhaps I had torqued my body in my sleep and the bulging disc had  done a number on ALL the nerves in BOTH legs.  Perhaps.  Of the three surgeons in this practice, I had been in the personal care of two of them.  Guess what?  The third guy, the one looking at all of my information “blindly” made the call that this disc needed to come out yesterday.  Although I appreciate that the other two wanted to try to help me avoid surgery for a while, I knew it was just a matter of time.  I feel like we were actually playing with fire in not trying to schedule this a while ago.  The bottom line, though, is that all three of these guys recognized that NOT doing anything was now not an option.  They could medicate me and send me home but what would happen the next time I twisted myself in a benign way in my sleep and ended up paralyzed?

So Wilma and I asked a bunch of questions.  I insisted that I could make it through the weekend.  This is because I had to talk to my students.  You see, the recovery period is three months, effectively taking me past the end of the school year.  I remarked to Wilma that this reminded me so much of thirteen years ago when my own mom would drive me to my doctors appointments and sit with me and ask questions.  Then, afterwards, she and I would go to the diner.  Ah, gotta’ love Jersey!  I was young, unmarried, a little scared.  Heck, I was still in the seminary!  Wilma, after asking a few more pertinent questions like how long I could expect to stay in the hospital, took me to lunch at Luby’s.  It really was like the old days.

In any event, I called my mom on the ride home to tell her.  Did I mention that I cried again?  Yeah, I’m sorry guys…  I promise I am not normally that emotional.  But somewhere around the time the doctor said “We need to get this done” and “We can get you in tomorrow”, the immediacy of the moment hit me.  Yes, I had been waiting, even hoping that a doctor would take me seriously and opt to operate.  After last night I was REALLY hoping that moment was upon us.  But hearing the words that indicate the man in front of you is going to cut a five inch incision into your lower abdomen and that you have exactly two days to straighten out your affairs before he does it?  That’s scary, dammit.  I cried.  Wilma grabbed me the tissues.  Again, I’m so glad she was with me.  And yes, she did “hold my hand” through the visit.

OK, then, so where was I?  Ah, right…  I was telling you that I’ve been telling them.  I’ve been keeping the son and daughter up to date.  I don’t want them to be scared of Daddy going into the hospital.  God forbid something terrible happen to me.  It’s not entirely impossible.  I don’t want them scarred.  That’s why I’m doing a lot of writing.  I want them to be able to look back and never doubt how much their old man loves them.

I'll get you whatever you want, sweetheart.

I’ll get you whatever you want, sweetheart.

Toward that end, my daughter handed me a book she found on her bookshelf.  I have not read this particular book to her before and I detest being called “Papa”. I’m not a smurf.  But you know what?  For you, Baby Girl and you, Sonny Boy… as soon as Daddy’s spine is back in tip-top shape, you bet your bottom dollar I’m gettin’ the moon and anything else you’d like.  That’s why I’m doing all this.  Because I love you.

 

Next time…  I’ll tell you all how I walked 160 17 year-old’s through this story.

Proud

There has been a lot of talk in the past week about pride’s opposite, humility.  As in, Pope Benedict XVI has shown great humility in renouncing the Petrine Ministry (resigning the papacy).  I find this talk strange considering that so many people today rarely and truly understand the meaning of pride.  In its basic meaning, pride is a bad thing.  It is, simply put, thinking too highly of oneself.  It is the ultimate sin.  Adam and Eve committed a sin of pride and this lost them the gift of God’s friendship.  Pride goeth before the fall, as they say.  But pride can have a different meaning, too.  This is evident whenever a parent tells his child “I’m so proud of you!” or when a teacher tells a student “I’m proud of your accomplishments!”  Here, pride denotes a sense of excitement and recognition that the speaker feels in the works of the object.  To tell another you are proud of him is to say that you feel an emotional attachment to his work making your heart swell and deepening your connection to him.  For instance, an athlete spends hours lifting weights, running drills, and sacrificing time away from other activities.  His efforts pay off and his coach is proud.  Coach is proud not because he (coach) has achieved the victory but because he has invested his time in the athlete’s performance and coach thus recognizes in place of the athlete all that the athlete has accomplished.  This brings us to the point of reflection and our daily prompt.

When was the last time someone told you they were proud of you?

This is a tough one.  I cannot honestly recall anyone ever telling me this.  So let’s talk about a different kind of pride.

A family of lions is called a...

A family of lions is called a…

Theology of the What Now?

Blessed John Paul the Great

Today at work we had a retreat day for the freshmen. I do not teach freshmen but since I am part of the campus ministry team I was asked, and happily agreed, to give a presentation on John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. This is the same talk, same retreat as last year. In fact, I had to go look up my post from that time to see how I handled it. Looking up old blog posts written by yourself is a useful tool. For instance, I discovered that my timing was WAY off last year. This year, I managed to get the whole thing in to the minute.

Anyway, if you’re wondering… Theology of the Body refers to a major teaching on human sexuality in the context of our sacred theology that was delivered in the form of 129 lectures in the early years of John Paul’s papacy. And I had to condense this for fourteen year-olds. Fun. But I did it. I didn’t even have any awkward moments either. I think they really got the point that our bodies and the gift of human sexuality are wonderful gifts from God and that we must never objectify others and that they need to really become the virtuous young men and women they are called to be. And to think… I got through all of that without ever once mentioning the words pornography or masturbation. Don’t get me wrong. They were just up on the PowerPoint screen behind me. The boy gets points for clever use of technology. The other thing that made it work was that I captivated their attention by dropping pictures of my kids into the slides. “So you see, lust is the selfish and disordered appropriation of sexual gratification. Oh look! Here’s my beautiful daughter holding a baseball bat. She’s saying ‘Listen to my Daddy or I’m going to beat the hell out of you…'” It works. Don’t question the master.