661: Parallelism in the Workplace

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Wait staff in restaurants and school teachers have some job similarities. When a patron (student) comes to a restaurant (school) it isn’t the wait staff’s (teacher’s) responsibility to greet them and escort them to the table (classroom) where they will have their meal (lessons). The restaurant hires a host/hostess or a maitre’d for that, and that person decides which patrons are seated at which tables – and the wait staff usually also does not get to decide which tables in the restaurant they will be assigned to serve, either. In the same way, the school teacher does not decide which students are in their classes – that is decided by others at the school (counselors, admins, or whoever does the scheduling). Teachers teach the students that are sent to them, like wait staff serve the patrons who are seated at the tables they are assigned to serve. In Georgia (and in other places) a teacher’s job contract says that the school system can assign them to any classroom (or sometimes no classroom at all as a floating teacher who moves each class to a different room), any school in the district, teaching any subject they are qualified to teach, just like the wait staff person is assigned their tables and patrons to serve.

The restaurant owner determines the restaurant menu – the items that patrons must choose from when they order their meal at that restaurant. Students/parents at schools do register for their classes. At earlier grades, the menu is set – little or no choice. At high schools, where I teach, the student has much more choice in the menu offered. Still, the teacher has absolutely nothing to do with the menu offered. That is all determined by others. It is the wait staff’s job, (and the teachers’) to SERVE the food choices that are on the menu that was determined by someone else.

In the serving of the food (lessons) things get interesting. It isn’t the wait staff’s fault how long it takes the food to be prepared. That’s the job of the cook. The quality of the food also isn’t the wait staff’s fault – that food was ordered by the owner/manager of the restaurant – the wait staff SERVES it to the patron. It is the wait staff’s job to serve the food promptly when it is ready, AND it is the wait staff’s job to be sure the patron has the necessary equipment and supplies to consume the food; that means salt and pepper, other condiments like ketchup, sauces, and also napkins and cutlery. However, if the restaurant runs out of any of those things, that also isn’t the wait staff’s fault. Those things are supposed to be ordered by the restaurant owner and made available for the wait staff to provide. It also isn’t the wait staff’s fault if the table and chairs where the patron has been seated are old, or damaged – and it often isn’t the wait staff’s job to clean it, or the floor, either. They SERVE the food. Teachers TEACH the curriculum they are assigned or provided to teach (by other people). Yes, like the wait staff, teachers do their best to serve it promptly (nice and hot) with the proper supplies and equipment so consuming it isn’t a hassle, and good waiters serve the food with special flourish (all the bells and whistles and entertainment that make a restaurant a good dining experience – we call that “ambiance”). Teachers do prepare their lessons – how they are going to serve the food, and they try to do that in ways that provide that good ambiance to their students.

Still – even the best wait staff will have some patrons that will eat the food with their fingers when they have been given perfectly good knives, spoons, and forks. Even the best wait staff will still have patrons who will leave food uneaten on their plates, because patrons (students) CHOOSE what to eat from what’s served to them on their plates. Some patrons (an ever-growing number) even SEND BACK the food they are served, claiming that it isn’t good, or just because they don’t want it for some reason – even reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the food on the plate. Some patrons waste condiments, and deliberately make an unholy mess at their tables for the wait staff to clean up because they are unhappy about something that totally was not the wait staff’s fault (like the menu choices).  Some unfairly rate the wait staff on things the wait staff cannot control (like the menu, the availability of supplies, or the damaged table) because the wait staff is the only employee they see. And some patrons come to the restaurant drunk or high on drugs, and demand to be served. It is also quite common for patrons at restaurants to be demanding, often actually rude. Some of them trash the restroom, too, before they leave. It is the wait staff’s job to serve them anyway, to the best of their ability – and then they don’t tip for the effort, or they just don’t eat the food.

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Serving the public (in any job) isn’t always pretty. Most of the time, the public being served is at least mostly adults (who have learned good behavior even when they do not display it). School teachers are dealing with students who are youngsters who do not have the maturity of adults. Imagine being the wait staff in a restaurant full of children and adolescents. Want to sign up for that job?

660: Loving and Games

Loving someone isn’t supposed to be about playing games. It isn’t supposed to be about learning to be devious, or manipulative, or calculating. Yes, different people express love in various ways. There are a number of books that have been written about “love languages,” the different ways that people use to express their love, care, and concern for another person. Those five ways are gifts, physical touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, and quality time spent with the significant other (according to the experts). We each use the different methods, or ‘languages,’ in varying degrees, or amounts of each of the five, depending on which ones of the languages we value ourselves, and which ones of the languages we would ourselves prefer to receive.  (https://www.5lovelanguages.com/)

Apparently, the combination of ways that I use to express love are toxic. And have been toxic, in every relationship I have been in, for the entire duration of my life on this planet. I am not stupid enough to blame the others in this situation. It is quite obvious to me that when I get involved in a relationship and express love to the significant other, that process fairly rapidly turns them into users and me into the used. Seeing this pattern develop over time and past relationships, and recognizing that it is happening again, clearly means that it isn’t them, it’s me. The fault quite obviously belongs to me. I am training them to become monsters, albeit unintentionally training them – but training them, nevertheless.

The twelve-step programs that many people use to help them get out of their addictive, sometimes abusive, and often self-destructive behaviors (Alcoholics Anonymous, AlAnon, AlaTeen, Adult Children of Alcoholics and other dysfunctional families) tell us that the first step of the twelve steps to recovery and serenity (WTF is serenity?) in fixing a problem is acknowledging that one exists. Well, it freaking exists. The problem has been recognized.

Now for the solution. I have to change the one person I can control – and that person would be me. I have to learn to NOT give love in the ways that are most natural to me. I have to learn to calculate what I give, weigh out my displayed affection in smaller, stingier doses, and guard, critically assess, and strategize what I express towards others. I have to play a game, and not be “myself,” because being myself demonstrably and historically hurts myself.

Building walls is wearisome work, and sometimes necessary for self preservation. They are called boundaries. Time to build them.

 

659: Ideas About Living

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All of us are tasked with the process of living this life we have. We manage this with varying degrees of success (however you measure success, which is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish I am not touching).

Some of us (too many of us, in my opinion) are ended before we really have a chance to begin. Others have their brand new lives ended by a physical problem, an accident, or an illness in infancy – again, before they really  have a chance to live much of a life. Some, sadly, suffer the malice of another and are snuffed out of existence while still a baby, and others make it into childhood and get to experience some of the joy and anguish of living a life before one of those killers takes them out.

This is the luck of the draw – or part of the cosmic plan, given your philosophical leanings on the matter of our purpose in being alive. Some don’t get to grow up, and others choose not to grow up who do get to live long enough to make progress in that direction. We all can admit that getting older and bigger has absolutely nothing to do with “growing up,” or becoming a mature human being, right?

For those of us blessed enough (or lucky enough – or unlucky enough) to make it to the age of adulthood (maturity level notwithstanding), there is the question of how to live this life we have, and what shape and color our life is going to be, given our uniquely personal set of choices and experiences. Some of it we decide, and some of it is decided for us, and some of it just comes thundering out of nowhere and we deal with it the best we can. This happens for everyone. It’s different for everyone, which makes us all unique in our life path.

The nice part about this life living thing is that there is plenty of room in this world for all sorts of people, all living all sorts of lives. When the life you have chosen to live does not harm others, I have no issues with you and your choices. I may disapprove of the choices you make, but ultimately, those choices are yours to make. You won’t answer to me. Whether you will answer to someone or something other than me is a question of faith (and debate).

Where I have issues is with those who are earnestly convinced that they have the right of this living thing, and that their view of the right way should apply to all other persons, regardless of their beliefs of their experiences – and regardless of that other person’s ability, desire, or right to choose for themselves. I also have issues with those who sponge off of the effort of others, like parasites, in order to make their personal choices. Those choices DO negatively impact others who do not get the rewards for the work that they do.

What I can do about this is live my own life as ethically as I can, as much as I am able to control myself, growing and maturing into the best person I can be. And I can also live my life standing up to those who choose not to do the same.

 

658: Personal Ethics and God

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Most of have a system of personal ethics we try to live by – a set of foundational beliefs. We try not to be hypocritical, even though sometimes we are. For example, most of us believe telling a lie is wrong, and then, we tell a lie anyway – when it is convenient, to get us out of a sticky situation, to save face, to avoid punishment, to avoid social discomfort (so-called white lies)….we actually DO lie, even though we philosophically believe that telling a lie is wrong. That is the essence of hypocrisy, and most of us are guilty of it.

Once you realize that you are actually a hypocrite in some situation dealing with one of your personal ethics, you have a conscious or unconscious choice to make – and either way you go, realize that you have actually made a choice. You can change the behavior to match your foundational ethic, and tell no more lies, OR you can change your ethic to match your actions; lies that benefit you are OK. Even if you just keep doing what you have been doing (being a hypocrite – telling lies and thinking yourself an ethical person who believes that telling lies is wrong) that is still a choice, and arguably, that is the worst choice of the three. It is also the choice that most of us usually make, because the other two choices (both clearly ethically superior choices that align your beliefs with your actions) mean that you will have to make some changes, and change is difficult. People are lazy, and change is difficult, involving work and thought and effort, and most of us are not up to that challenge, sadly.

If you believe you are a servant of God, just being an ethical person yourself isn’t enough. God expects you to put action to your beliefs (not just private philosophical thought) and actually do some work for the Kingdom. Sitting on your butt in your reclining chair might mean that you are doing no harm, true, but you also are a pretty useless servant of God, sitting there doing nothing but being harmless (and useless, too). Are you waiting on God to miraculously drop opportunity into your waiting, prayerful lap? Well, yes, He CAN. He usually DOESN’T. Get up and do something. He will let you know if you are not on the right track, what with Him being God, and all.

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And for the love of aforementioned God, don’t take pride in your character flaws. If you recognize a character flaw in yourself, guess what? God, in the form of the Holy Spirit’s conscience within you, has pointed out that area of your life and personal ethics (or lack thereof) that HE wants you to work on. That’s why you have come to recognize that aspect of your character and personal ethics as a flaw. The longer you go without correcting that flaw, the more difficult it gets to fix it, because you get really, really good at justifying your behavior to yourself, explaining to yourself why that flaw is not such a flaw, and how you aren’t really supposed to expend the effort to fix it, because, after all, God made you that way. That is the essence of disobedience. God didn’t make you that way – you did that yourself. You KNOW it’s a flaw. Flaws need to be corrected, especially once you have recognized this is a flaw you possess, and the fact that you don’t want to give up this flaw that you possess is part of your disobedience.

Whatever this flaw that God’s finger is on – you know it. You know it is something that you need to fix, you are just lazy, and possessive, and comfortable with it, and you don’t want to give it up, and do the necessary work, put in the necessary effort, to correct it. Realize this,  if your motivation to improve needs a little kick start: you are denying yourself blessings because of your willful disobedience. God knows He told you about it. You know God told you about it. God knows you know. You are being disobedient in not addressing this thing He wants you to give up and correct. Disobedience separates you from God and His blessings.

Prayers not answered? Be obedient to God’s prompting. Struggling? Pray and ask for the will and the strength to do what you have been told to do. Let go, and give up what you have been asked to fix. Yes, it’s work. Breaking any bad habit is work. But, you can do it.

And the blessings of obedience are worth it.

657: Teachers make all other professions possible

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I teach. I don’t talk about it much. When I was a new teacher, there was craftsmanship. It was an art. Computers took all of that away.

The policies under which I now work are absolutely NOT helping to produce productive, mature, responsible human beings. I am not proud to be part of the current process. I do not believe being able to retake a test is helping students prepare to take tests. I do not believe it is helping to require a teacher to put 50 points of academic credit in the grade book for NOTHING – no student effort expended whatsoever, other than breathing (not an academic activity last time I checked), not even including non-attendance as a factor – NO – I am told to award academic credit for NOTHING. How is that helping make a responsible human, employee, citizen?

Yes, I am doing all that I can do (and still keep a job) to properly, carefully, and competently educate and guide my students, working diligently, helping them become better young humans. Still.

There is only so much I can do in an hour a day to offset what they have (and have not) learned at home, and from the media, and their peers. Teaching responsibility is often a fairly painful process, and that isn’t allowed in schools anymore. People make mistakes, often painful ones, that cost them time, or money, missed opportunities, points, and other things they want. It is not getting those things when a mistake is made, and learning from the pain of losing out on something you wanted, that helps teach responsibility – and it isn’t allowed anymore. The rule used to be “no pain, no gain.” Now the rule is “no pain, no pain.”

Now, all that occurs when a student makes a mistake is that a parent calls and complains. Then I am told that an exception will be made. Nobody is learning to be responsible in school anymore, AS IF they are miraculously just going to achieve that state when they walk across that stage at graduation. Yeah, right.

When I am old and feeble, and cannot care for myself any longer, just shoot me. It would be kinder. I do not want to depend on the youngsters we are producing in American schools today when  I am unable to care for myself. I have seen what they think is a good job. Worse, I have seen what they think is “good enough.” Nope. Just shoot me.

656: Dreaming

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I am continually amazed at the “stuff” that comes up in my nightly forays into the land of slumber. Do your dreams consist of the strangest things, or is that just my demented brain?

Many people attach great significance to the things that they dream: the people, the objects, the settings and situations, the issues that crop up – even whether you dream in black and white or in color is supposed to have some sort of significance – or so I  am told. Dreams are portents of things to come, or the subconscious processing of things that have passed. I hope not.

Jeepers, creepers, I hope not. My dreams are nothing I want to see happen in my future, and many of them are nothing that has every happened in my past, and some of them are just surreal short stories or novel-length aberrations of a twisted reality I’d much prefer, like, and hope to think had nothing whatsoever to do with awake me.

Maybe that’s why I am up so late at night: I am just avoiding joining in the madness that awaits on the other side of waking.

655: Andersonville, GA

This tiny town was the site of a Civil War prison camp for captured Union Soldiers. Near the close of the war, it was every bit as horrible as German concentration camps. The death toll from starvation and disease was high, and the commemorative grave stones stand shoulder to shoulder, marking trench-style graves. There are stories of those who worked to relieve the suffering there in those last bleak years of the Civil War in the devastated South. The Union states who had soldiers die here erected monuments to their memory in the early 1900’s.

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The monument from the state of Wisconsin to commemorate fallen Union soldiers from that State who died and are buried at Andersonville.

Since then, this has become a National Historic Site in commemoration of Prisoners of War, with a museum on site, and a National Military Cemetery. It is less than an hour off Interstate 75 on the vacation trek to Florida, and can be seen in a few hours. It is worth the visit. Admission is free.

The neighboring village of Andersonville also has a small museum of Civil War artifacts, including uniforms of the armies and regiments, both Confederate and Union. This Confederate Drummer Boy uniform is one of only two like it known to exist. The little museum asks a small donation to view.

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