It’s come to this, bundled up in gray sweats, lots of layers, Phish on repeat, and a struggle to keep my eyes open. The day of service has passed on I feel like I’ve been going all day, running, driving, trying new foods, putting laundry away, and whatever else got done. The clock says that it is only seven, but I feel like I could sleep right now. Why not, I napped through the first half of the Sixers’ game this afternoon. Sometimes workdays are easier than holidays. For now, I’m chilling, Roggae keeping me awake until I’m absolutely out.
Remember when age was supposed to be full of wisdom. The idea that life experiences help people make wise decisions has been accepted throughout history. Tonight another old and supposedly wise person started shooting rockets into the sky. He was avenging the death of his boy at the hands of another country. The trigger happy leader will cost many people their lives, just the same as the equally egotistical leader who started the mess by ordering the initial hit. Anymore wars are eternal pissing contests that never end. When will people learn that ego exposes their worst? I’m guessing never.
There were a few minutes left in the longest school day of the year. My students were deep into a battle of kickball when the emergency lights around the gym started blinking. The calm and panic-inducing voice commanding everyone to leave the building. We went out into the blinding sun and winter’s wind. Luckily, the sun was winning and it wasn’t too cold. The students walked to the safe zone and we waited to hear what could have caused the unexpected building evacuation. Fortunately, nothing was too wrong. A bag of microwavable popcorn burned. The smoke ended the day.
It was like I had never been in a classroom before. They looked at me like I was some kind of freak speaking a language they had never heard. In less than two weeks, either I had forgotten how to teach or they had no clue what I had taught them over the last four months. This was no dream. This was first period after the holiday recess. I scrambled for the right things to say recognizing that time has a way of bringing things back. Somewhere in a story about my high school teacher, they came back to life.
Cold made its way into the morning. Finally. Two of us took to the roads in the dark. We talked training. We talked guy stuff. We shared our preferences for angrier music, the happy pop not fitting our slightly deranged view of the world. I found it comforting to know that I wasn’t the only one who still appreciated the Sex Pistols, although, my expertise paled in comparison to my running partner’s punk rock acumen. He did show his age, a few years ahead of my own, when he offered to let me borrow his copy of “Spunk.”
With that run done and the sun rising, we headed to the fields for a cross country-styled 5K organized by another friend and populated by a bunch of people we all mostly know. My plan was to chill, take it easy on the course, and simply enjoy the time. Like Goggins in Las Vegas and with “Anarchy” blaring on a loop in my head, I took off with a goal to catch the Mennonite woman running up ahead in their bonnets and dresses. Ego is a strange thing and mine was hooked to an adrenaline pump as I pushed harder than I have in many years. We caught the nattily clad runners and for the rest of the way, I ran scared of being passed from behind.
The community theme of the race was exhibited at the finish line. No egos, no trash talking, only the support for each runner as they finished. Times didn’t really matter. Places, either. Hanging with all my friends at the finish lines was awesome. The sun was out, the warmth everywhere, the angry music out of my head.
Seen in their natural habitats, animals exhibit their truest behaviors. They forget the responsibility for insuring the success of the herd and look only to protect themselves. Think of the teacher with closets full of supplies while the rest turn to funding sites to beg in a socially acceptable way for markers, erasers, paper, or scissors. Think of the teachers who see the classroom as their personal domain, as if it is an extension of their homes, so much so that they are put out when a transient is assigned to their classroom for a period or two.
Maybe it would be good if some kind of animal whisperer came into contact with these egocentrically inclined professionals. The trainer could show them the good of building strong relationships with other members of the pack. Their enlightened ways might help them share some of their resources or maybe even knock stressfulness down a level or two. Of course, the truest habits of an animal comes out in the most natural environments.
Old dogs, new tricks?
The mornings have lost the summer’s early rays. We ran through the humidity joking that the Suck Level was in full effect. Some in our group were out for the long haul, some going easy to protect against recurring injuries, and I was confused after a night of light sleep. Instead of sticking with the crew, I turned and headed off alone. The normal chatter that rages in my head must have stayed in bed because all I heard was the rhythm of my breathing, the softness of my feet hitting the ground, and the occasional walnut falling in the woods. The air was cool at the bottom of hills, a welcome relief from the humid mushroom soil infused air at the top of the hills.
I cruised letting gravity and friction cooperate to get me around the way. Every run should be so peaceful. Every day should have such a start.
How about when students do the right thing? Do we hear about that enough? No. We hear about the decline of civilization, the ruination of education, and the folly that is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Just once, no maybe all of the time, it sure would be nice to hear about the good that happens in this world. As I write, stories are circulating about the “alleged” corruption of the current administration. Yet all I want to think about is the great practice my team had today, the wonderful choice that a student made, or the sincere regret a student expressed after making an unfortunate choice.
Hopefully, there can be some trickle-up morality for the adults running the show.
A student looked rushed to get to class. I often offer hall passes to students when they are late, especially when they look as stressed as this young person did.
“How are you?” I asked.
“Late,” he replied.
“Do you want a pass?” I asked.
“No, nobody’s gonna mess with a kid who has cancer.”
I was caught off guard. He went his way. I went mine.
Some things are bigger than being late for third period, huh?