649: College Pathways

You didn’t kiss me when I left.

I traveled two and a half hours over two-lane roads to arrive at this University, where I will spend six days a week this summer working on a research project, attending class, conducting research, and returning to my youth as a responsibility-free college student.

Except…. I’m not. I am not a college student, even though I feel very much the same as the teenager that I was then. The outside does not match the inside, and hasn’t done so for at least the last thirty-five years. Inside, though, inside – that’s pretty much the same person that walked the shaded footpaths at the University of Georgia, Athens in the late 1970’s. But this is Georgia Southern University, Statesboro in 2018, and the silver sparkles in my hair aren’t glitter, and I didn’t add them on purpose just for the wow factor, either.

The sidewalks don’t seem to be as shady as I remember they were, and the South Georgia sun is hot on my neck and shoulders, making me grateful for the travel size sunscreen I slathered on the back of my neck and the cheap sunglasses I’m wearing. Heck, everything I’m wearing is cheap. I visited Goodwill today for a pair of closed toe shoes and another pair of jeans, instead of the old lady teacher clothes I brought with me fully intending to wear while I am here. I probably will wear them, even though they make me stick out from the fresh-faced millennials like the sore thumb that I am.

The trees and shrubs that have been planted along these university walkways have been strictly pruned – this far you may grow and blossom, and no further. The flowerbeds contain lush profusion, all the way up to the edge, where a military haircut neatly ends the clipped foliage like an invisible force field. The expanses of mulched bed beneath the evenly spaced young trees are flawless. No weed seed would dare sprout to mar the unblemished field of uniformly aged, dusty grey-brown chips.

There is remarkably little human detritus to be seen, either, in the twelve minutes it takes me to purposefully walk from the student residence apartment I have been allotted to the imposing brick stateliness of the College of Engineering building. The paver blocks (two shapes, three colors) that make up the walkway I’m on were meticulously laid in a deliberately decorative pattern that required a concrete saw’s precise cuts to match up the paver blocks’ disparate shapes and colors at the edges to produce this ornate and ordinary walkway that borders this ordinary and unimportant side road.

I imagine the thoughts of the stonemason laboring in Georgia’s heat and humidity as he cut, set, and fit these walkway pavers so precisely that so few people will see and use. Perhaps he was missing his wife, like I am missing my husband. And then, why am I so sure that the person was a he? I chide myself on my thoughtless sexism. Probably was a he, though.

It occurs to me, after two days of College of Engineering workshop sessions and research laboratory tours, that these men (and most of them are men) are a lot like professional athletes. They come to work every day and pursue their own very narrow interests, playing at deriving better numbers in the same way a professional athlete seeks to shave a place value off their previous best number. Their projects have impressive sounding names (my brother and I christened one of our backyard forts “The Impregnable Kingdom of Fuller,” even though the rain later proved it not to be). Some of those research projects are probably going to be useful (some day), and maybe even affordable (one day quite some time after that). At least, unlike the athlete or the stonemason who paved the pathway to their building, they mostly work on improving their numbers inside in the air conditioning.

I am here at this university this long hot summer to narrow my own far-flung interests down to an Engineering research project on renewable energy, to construct a prototype, and to derive some numbers of my own that I can take back to my impoverished school district to perhaps ignite some youngsters who can dream and maybe believe that the world does not end at the county line the way their lives have shown them, repeatedly, is true. Perhaps some of them might then set their sights on achieving better numbers in air-conditioned comfort, instead of trying to win the professional athlete lottery against their own genetics, or instead of simply opting to labor outdoors in the hot sun, which they all know is a possibility, however unwelcome.

First, though, they have to believe such a future exists, that it isn’t just another fairy tale like the stuff they see on the TV screen and in the movies which they all know is just make-believe, of course. Then they have to believe it is possible, seeing beyond the effort it will cost and the money they don’t have. Then, the biggest stretch of faith of all, they have to believe they maybe, just maybe, they could do it themselves, instead of watching someone else do it who had more than they had to go on. Faith isn’t easy, and changing your beliefs isn’t encouraged, where they come from.

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598: Failure

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Nobody likes to fail.

Nobody likes ADMITTING that they failed, much less the painful process of actually FAILING.

The constant mental re-plays…if only I had done THAT instead, it would have changed the outcome……why didn’t THAT occur to me at the time, so I could have done something differently……why did I not recognize that as a RED FLAG? Heck no, at the TIME, that red flag was a glowing, rosy PINK flag……..sheesh. Gotta get rid of these glasses.

And then comes the sneaking, stealthy, sly subconscious. The DREAMS about failing. Not necessarily the specific thing I failed at, oh, no! These are horrible, inventive fantasies; dark, macabre imaginings of all the OTHER ways I could possibly fail at something.

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Such as – dreaming of being a waitress (yes, I, too, did this in college) at a pizza-cum-sandwich shop – and getting ALL the orders wrong, having to apologize profusely to all the incensed customers, take all the blame, and give them their food for free – which I know is going to come out of my miniscule paycheck, of course. FABULOUS dream. Can’t WAIT to have it again. The groveling, you know, that’s what excites me the most.

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Then there’s the nightmare about the trip – I get to the airport, after having meticulously packed (and pre-weighed) my bag for this international flight, and discover my purse (with the passport, of course), is missing. Instant panic. WHERE did I leave it on my journey to the airport? On the train? In the taxi? OMG! The flight departs in an hour! Or, (alternate variation on this theme), the bag I carefully packed and weighed to comply with all the myriad regulations for flying (which I looked up online prior to getting started packing, just to be sure), ISN’T in compliance, after all. And now I must choose, standing at the inspection table surrounded by harried passengers, which items to discard so they will actually let me get on the flight using the ticket I have paid for. Should I ditch the shampoo? The tampons? The evening gown? The sandals? The sunscreen? AAUUGGHHHhhhhhh…………! Meanwhile, the clock is ticking down to the time they will close the boarding gate, and I will be…..LEFT BEHIND. With no refund of monies paid.

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Or the teacher dream: supervising a field trip and having something go wrong when I am responsible for twenty something (or more) students and chaperones. I am scrambling to fix whatever thing has gone awry, and doing a perfectly miserable job of it, because, of course, this is a FAILURE dream, and nothing I do in one of those dreams works out to my advantage. Ever. And usually, it involves a copious amount of my favorite thing – groveling to all and sundry as I meekly confess my culpability.

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Or my personal favorite – I am fleeing a menacing, pursuing presence through all the halls and rooms of an infinite decaying, crumbling mansion….for hours and hours, all the while knowing that the terrible pursuing menace is going to corner and catch and murder horrifically. Yup. Personal favorite. I usually wake up trying to scream from that one, panting like I’ve just run the Boston Marathon.

Bad enough to fail in real life, when I am conscious. Failing in my dreams is infinitely worse – the dream failures seem every bit as real as the real-life failures, and I can have more than one of them per night. Subconscious self-torture. Whoopity doo.

578:Random sh…..stuff.

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The government has married many, many women. These women marry the government when they choose to stay at home and have children to support themselves on the government dole. Many actually refuse to marry their children’s father(s), and raise those children in a nuclear family, because they are unwilling to give up the free government money. When they can obtain benefits that are sometimes more than they can earn working a no-skills job at minimum wage (all many are remotely qualified for, if that), where is any incentive to work? There isn’t any.

Our government is enabling addictive behaviors among many, dis-encouraging them to get jobs and support themselves. The trouble is, cutting them off also disenfranchises the innocent children they have spawned to earn their living upon. How do you provide benefits to children while not encouraging their deadbeat parent to spawn more children to get an even bigger government handout support check?

Is it just me, or does anyone else absolutely despair at the fact that either Clinton or Trump will win this upcoming election? They are both awful candidates – how did we sink this low, that these two are our choices? Boggles the mind, for those who have one – which means not many Americans, evidently.

IS anyone actually campaigning to do away with police? Seriously? That isn’t a country I want to live in. Yes, I understand that not every single police officer is ethical. Guess what? Neither is every single practitioner of any other profession: medical doctors, politicians (duh), lawyers, judges, presidents, preachers/priests, scientists/researchers, sports athletes, you name it. We are routinely and frequently advised by the news (if you can trust journalists (:-() that people of all professions fall short of the glory of God, or even of basic honesty. Still – I think we are far, far better off WITH a police force than without one.

Learning to live with another human being is hard work.

I have discovered that getting thin takes hard work and dedication that I do not possess on a continuing, daily basis – and THAT is why I continue to be fat, despite intermittant and dedicated short-term willpower. One slip undoes DAYS of good behavior – sometimes weeks. 😦

Whether someone is gay (which lifestyle I personally disagree with) or chooses to abort their offspring (which choice I disagree with) ultimately does not affect me in any way whatsoever. What those persons do affects them and their lives – and you know what? People have the choice to throw away their lives in various ways, including suicide (which I also disagree with) and their decisions are their own. Their decisions are between themselves and their God (or lack thereof) and YES, they may be ill or mentally unfit when they make those decisions. It isn’t always apparent that they are unfit when they choose to do themselves harm with drugs, food, alcohol, gambling, sex, or any number of other life-destroying choices. YES, we should do what we CAN do to encourage people to do better things and make better choices. NO, it isn’t my fault when they make those choices anyway, when there are programs and options they can take, and don’t. For the love of God, I have enough to do trying to live my own life in an ethical and caring manner. Enough, already.

I dislike out present cradle-to-grave government. I do not believe this is what government was supposed to be doing. I want OUT. Repudiating my American citizenship is an option, but I also don’t know another country to go to and at present there is no such thing as “citizen of the world.”

Our government pushed native American Indians onto the worst land possible as their “reservations.” Now that they are discovering those lands have resources and are not as barren as was originally thought, Americans should PAY them for the use of those resources. Plus, we need to GO AROUND their reservation lands when we have some project for the nation, like the pipeline. We stuffed them onto those lands – now, BACK OFF. Respect what we made them accept in the first place!

A teacher has a huge influence on their students. But nobody can save every kid. It has to be a two-way street. I can choose to reject every overture you make. I can refuse to learn, and some students do choose exactly that. Maybe later they will gain some interest and motivation. Maybe another teacher will try again and reach them next year. Maybe school isn’t for everybody – imagine that. Not everything is a teacher’s fault, like not every cop or politician is a bad one. Heck, there are even a few competent and ethical used car salesmen out there.

Enough, already.

549: School

Jennifer Johnson, a teacher at Evergreen Campus of Health Sciences & Human Services High School (HS3) in Seattle, WA, works with students in her classroom on May 20, 2014.

Jennifer Johnson, a teacher at Evergreen Campus of Health Sciences & Human Services High School (HS3) in Seattle, WA, works with students in her classroom on May 20, 2014.

Being a teacher is a very mixed blessing. Yeah, I know what everybody says about teaching, how we are not paid enough, and how the job expects you to basically perform at God level, and how everything that happens in somehow your fault (as if you can control the choices that other people make on a daily basis). Yeah, I know.

Actually I went into teaching because I like teaching, because it was steady income, and because of the time off. Considering how much time off there is in a year’s contract, the pay isn’t horrible. Few other jobs get as much time off. No, we are not paid for our time off. We are paid for approximately (depending on the school system and their instructional calendar) 190 days of work. To keep us from starving during the summer, school systems now divide our 190 days’ worth of pay into twelve payments. THAT equals a fairly mediocre income, considering all the certification and licensing requirement hoops that teachers must jump through to qualify. But for approximately 246 days of the year (190 plus the weekends) of work time, it’s still not too bad.

Still, no teacher works a 40 hour week. If you are a teacher working 40 hours a week, you suck as a teacher. Period. Efficiency be damned, there is far too much to get done in that 190 days for you to be able to do a quality job in 40 hours a week. EVERY teacher worth their salt works far more than 40 hours a week during the months that school is in session, and often works even more days during their ‘vacation’ during the summer for certification purposes – or chaperoning student groups on summer conferences.

It is no fun being the world’s scapegoat. I know intimately how the USA feels, accused of being the root cause of all evil on the planet. Apparently, in my dedicated career quest to make a difference and improve the lives of countless people, I am considered just an inept, bumbling fool, ultimately responsible for everyone’s poor choices, and certainly not a professional educator striving mightily each day to inspire and motivate other people’s children to be and do better than they were and did yesterday. Ministers, missionaries, and priests are nodding in rueful acknowledgement of that truth. Let me ask you this – how am I supposed to fix in one hour a day what the rest of the world has screwed up in the previous hours (and years) before this kid walked into my classroom? The fact that I work on it again, and again, and again, each day, is a testament to my dedication and stubbornness. Or my complete and total idiocy – I am not sure which some days.

469: Hello, Microbes

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As a teacher, you learn one fact about changing your job. You are going to get sick. Not of life, or of the job (though sometimes that does happen), no: literally, you will get physically sick. See, here’s how that happens:

When you work in one school for a number of years, your body develops antibodies against all the local germs that the darling kiddies you are working with (regardless of their age) bring to school and share with all and sundry – including you. So, after a few years, you manage to stay reasonably well, because you have already suffered thorough all the local varieties of common cold, influenza, etc., etc., etc., and now you are mostly immune and can stay mostly healthy.

When you change your job, and go to a new school, guess what you are meeting along with all those interesting new people? Yep. All those uninteresting, new, local microbes. You are going to get sick. The fact that you are working with children, and lots and lots of them (nearly 800 in this new school) does not help that situation. Children are still learning to wash their hands and blow their noses, and when to stay home and be sick in private, and when it is OK to be sick and come to school (like, virtually never). So you quite literally shake hands with lots and lots of new (to you) varieties of germs. Now multiply that truth by the interesting complexities of germ adaptation in totally new countries in different parts of the globe.

Yep. *cough*

*sniffle*

You got it. No, actually, I got it.

*sigh*

454: Teacher Respect

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I got into a Facebook discussion (fight) that started with someone’s insensitive comments about police officers being despicable, power-hungry racists (which a few of them are) and which MOST of them are emphatically not. My comment in support of police and the sacrifices they make trying to help ensure that the world is a better place caused a person to brag about her Master’s degree and her teaching job, all with execrable grammar.

This, people, is one of the reasons teachers are held in such low esteem. We are supposed to be educated, and we are supposed to write and speak (most of the time, anyway) as if we paid some attention in class. Particularly in English class, since that is the medium of instruction. You don’t want your child in class with a teacher who writes more poorly than your child, now, do you? When a self-proclaimed teacher can’t distinguish between homophones (to, too, and two),  and misuses articles (an crop), among other egregious errors, it embarrasses all teachers. And this person supposedly has a Master’s degree. Yeah, right. From which online college did you buy that worthless piece of paper, honey-child?

The more this person replied to my comments, the worse it got. Finally, as a teaching professional, I was just embarrassed on her behalf, and she seriously, honestly, never got a clue. Thank God I am fairly close to retirement, and do not have to school the new crop of educators, because honey-child, it isn’t pretty. I quote:

I never personal attacker her she is rude go back and read what she wrote as a teacher I am saddened by her … Like seriously .. I would be ashamed .. You can delete me if you like … But I refuse to be belittled by someone who does not even know me ..

The Grammar Nazi in me is freaking out (quietly) right now. Thank you, Jesus, that my children are graduated and no longer in school.

 

434: Care and Concern

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How dare you, parent, caregiver or teacher, claim to have care and concern for a child that you refuse to discipline? If you CARE about them, you discipline them so they can learn self-control, honor, and self-worth that is based on something besides empty promises.

EVERY human being wants things their own way. EVERY STINKING ONE. What makes the difference between growing bigger and actually growing up to be a mature adult, as opposed to the immature sort we see far too many of in this modern life since Dr. Spock became the child-rearing guru he proved himself NOT to be, is the difference between self-control and demanding to get my own way about everything. OF COURSE I want my own way. So does everybody else.

Not getting it, and learning to live with that, is being a grownup. If you care about a child, you have concern for them as a human being, you discipline them – and that includes disciplining your own selfish, greedy self, too. Not only is it bad news to tell a child yes too often, it is also bad news to tell yourself yes too often.

Suck it up. The truth is sometimes not pretty – but that does not make it any less the truth, just because you don’t like hearing it.