Clue-by-Four: Ramblings of a Jock Dork

Ode to Black Swan: From the Frontlines of Modern Education

Posted in Clue x Fours and Other Tools of Sanity by Wingnut on January 25, 2011

Q: You just don’t get it, do you, Jean-Luc? The trial never ends. We wanted to see if you had the ability to expand your mind and your horizons. And for one brief moment, you did.
Capt. Picard: When I realized the paradox.
Q: Exactly. For that one fraction of a second, you were open to options you had never considered. *That* is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence.

In the final episode of Star Trek the Next Generation “All Good Things…”, Q decides to spare humanity because, for a fleeting second, Captain Picard opened his mind to the possibilities of the universe. His synapses fired for a moment as he contemplated and realized the paradox, saving the universe from unraveling.

Q understood that to truly evolve as a species, beings must be open to and constantly searching for new paradigms and adapting the current one to meet the needs of this new information. [Yes, I said beings. Captain Picard doesn’t exist, as much as Sheldon1 would like him to]. For humans and cartoon characters [Remember folks, not dealing in reality just yet], this is also known as the light bulb, facepalm, fucking duh, “Eureka!” moment.

Stańczyk by Jan Matejko.

As a teacher, there is something profoundly amazing watching a teenager, hampered by hormones2, peer pressure3, and academic stress4, have that momentary shift into a new paradigm. It’s that exciting moment when you can actually see the opening of new areas of the brain as if in some quasi-House close up of “what is really wrong.5” Nowhere is this more common than the year of the “Wise Fool”, otherwise known as sophomore.

[Note: I am using the modernized etymology of the word from “Sophos” and “Moros”. It serves my purpose. For the truly pretentious, see the footnote for original origins. Oh and PLTTTTTT Mr. Smarty Pants]6.

No longer the deer-in-the-headlights freshmen and not yet mature enough to be upper classman, sophomores floats in a year of uncertainty, year of confusion, year of discovery, year of exploration, and year of direction7. It is the year they go from dumb kid to slightly less-dumb teen [trust me, it’s progress].

Let me give you an example from just a couple weeks ago.

We were discussing reality vs. perception and semantics [I can’t remember the exact conversation]. As an illustration of what we were talking about, the names of movies like The Matrix and Inception came up and we hotly debated what is real and what isn’t.

To my surprise, Black Swan entered the discussion. A few students had seen it and wanted to add their contributions to the discussion. Since I don’t teach in a socio-economic area where young men see movies about ballerinas [I am aware of what the movie is really about. To a teen boy however…], it came as a shock when one the boys shouted out, “Oh my God. I so want to see that movie.”

You know those moments when time seems to freeze after something is said? This was one of those moments.

I was truly stunned. This student, who has been suspended for inappropriate sweatshirts, tearing up referrals, and complaining in class constantly that he “doesn’t know” something, was actually admitting to wanting a little something more [Mind you his test scores are some of the best in the class, so he is obviously lying when he says “I don’t know”]. This student for whom knuckleheadery was almost a daily occurrence was finally ready.

It was happening. The light bulb had clicked on and he was finally ready to shuffle of the freshman coil and step out of the darkness.  I was speechless, both with the pride of a successful mentor and guilt over having so sharply underestimated him. I was…

And that’s when he said it:

“That’s that movie about lesbians right?”

Facepalm.

Did I mention this is a long process?

To be fair, we all know this is what got most men to go see this movie

Footnotes:

  1. Big Bang Theory
  2. Sex permeates every though and action of the average teen. It’s almost a disability because it hampers every other aspect of their life.
  3. To have sex [with drinking and drugs mixed in for good measure]
  4. Because it takes away from their thinking about sex
  5. Have you ever noticed that house is great for raising awareness of random illnesses by inventing deadly symptoms that are in no way, shape, or form related to the “real-life” illness.
  6. Since you must know, click on this. Oh and PLLLTTTTTTTTT
  7. And the aforementioned year of sex.
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A Bizarre Love Triangle: The Man of Action is Back

Posted in Clue x Fours and Other Tools of Sanity, Jock Dork: It's Who I Am by Wingnut on January 17, 2011
 
 
 
 

Guess who’s back
Back again
Shady’s back
Tell a friend
Guess who’s back, guess who’s back, guess who’s back, guess who’s back
guess who’s back, guess who’s back, guess who’s back..

 

                                                                                                                -Eminem

My comeback is way better!

I decided that my birthday gift to myself is finally giving myself permission to write again. [This is, of course, after giving myself the gifts of booze, comedy, booze, women, booze, massage, and booze]

Many wild rumors circulate as to the nature of my absence. Some speculate that I have been living the life of the Sultan of Brunai, relishing in nightly debauches with the many members of my harem.

This accusation is absolutely false [I am not in any way, shape, or form a sultan1]

Others speculate I have grown tired of passive-aggressive Twitter drama and weary of openly being an asshole. Also untrue. I can assure you, I’ll never be uncomfortable being a pretentious, pompous, preening prick [As evidences by my need to alliterate].

There have even been those that even speculate that I am in a re…re…re…relationship [Yeah, not sure I can say it again so don’t ask me to]. My reason for absence is, however, closely related to my reasons for not being available for relationship consideration:

I have dedicated the last five months to being the best teacher and colleague I can possibly be at my new school.

[Please note: This is only one of the reasons in the relationship department. I’ll save those for future writings2]

Being a Man of Action Requires Personal Sacrifice

One of my favorite motivational speakers, Eric Thomas, says you have to want success as much as you want to breathe. Hold your breath for a few moments and think about what that feels like the longer you hold it. Multiply that by the “don’t die” reflex and you have a better idea of what he’s talking about.

It isn’t enough for me to be a “pretty good” teacher. If you know anything about me, pretty good just isn’t enough. I play to win and love winners3. Besides, I’m working at a charter school now. I don’t have tenure; job security is based on personal growth and performance. I am also working with a new student population and have to rapidly adapt everything I do well to meet their specific needs and cultural nuances.

I am not the type of person who can phone it in. My days are long and my free time is dedicated to spending time with my kids, staying fit, and, every now and then, getting out or a little free time with friends4.

I Won’t Do You Halfway

Writing and relationships have a few things in common, the largest of which may be time requirement. When I was in a rhythm at my previous job, I had a lot of free time. My grading was streamlined, teaching a well-oiled machine, and thinking a factory of ideas [or fountain of bullshit, depending on your point of view].  But I wasn’t creating curriculum; I wasn’t reinventing teacher @ClueXFour [Though I did perfect #badteacher].

That was then. I am now in a constant state of reinvention. I demand success from myself. To reach a place where I can be happy with my pedagogy, I have to dedicate an inordinate amount of time to the pursuit of mastery. Outside of that, I have time to engage positive stress release at the gym, eat, and pass out…that is if I’m not behind on planning and grading [Which is almost always].

Care to tickle these keys?

My blog has become the neglected girlfriend. There was a time when it was easy to make time for her because it fit into the natural ebb and flow of daily life. There was a time when our relationship was relatively uncomplicated and I could meet her needs. But, as much as I want to sit down and stroke the keys softly with my fingertips, thoughtfully edit her body repeatedly, and gaze longingly at her in the spent aftermath, I just haven’t had the time.

I know what they say: “If you really want her, you will make the time.” In many cases, that is true. But, in some, including mine, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. I want to write; I ache to write; I need to write. It’s not a matter of want, but matter of priorities.5

Likewise, with relationships, I know what my time demands are and what I have available. It isn’t much. Being a textbook Capricorn [I reject the notion your “new” Zodiac], I have an innate drive to succeed. I play to win and, theoretically, I hope my next relationship will have the key ingredients to win.

However, one of those ingredients has to be the mental and physical availability to successfully navigate the natural ebb and flow of any relationship. With my job continuing to evolve, I don’t have either and I refuse to half-ass a relationship. If I can’t dedicate the time and energy required to participate in a relationship, I’m not going to pretend that I can. I would only be fooling someone else and myself.

Does this mean I don’t go out from time to time? No. It just means I am up front with this with any prospective evening companion. [This undoubtedly attracts the label “player”. So be it. Such labels are a semantics argument for another time].

Personal Fulfillment is All That Matters

I know this is not a choice some people can make, but it is the choice that I make. I do not judge those who need that other person to make them feel whole and complete. All I am saying is that I am OK on my own because there are other things that drive me:

  • Watching my girls develop and mature into fine young women fulfills me.
  • Thinking and planning to open the pathways to learning for my students fulfill me.
  • Being the kind of friend who people in need can truly rely on to be there in times of crisis fulfills me.

While I’m sure I would enjoy some aspects of a relationship, the extra burden and pressure of being a successful boyfriend would pull too much away from other areas and I would no longer find fulfillment in any facet of my life because I would be spread too thin. Sure, a relationship isn’t supposed to be a burden or pressure. But, let’s be honest. It requires time and if you have none, it is a constant battle to tread water. I’m not good at treading water6.

That Bizarre Love Triangle that is Blogging

This is not to say that it will be that way forever. Just for now. At least I’ve begun writing again, just not at the torrid pace that defined the beginning of Blog-Year  One.

Thus, I reinitiate the love triangle that is writer-blog-reader.

I’ve missed you.

Welcome back.

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.

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Footnotes:

  1. Though lately I’ve bore a striking resemblance to Charlie Sheen, minus the three-ton liver]
  2. Every now and again, it is me and not you.
  3. See https://cluexfour.wordpress.com/2010/07/23/winning-the-yankees-way-life-lessons-learned-from-george-steinbrenner/ for an example of what I think of winning.
  4. In the words of robot on The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson, “Is that code?”
  5. Like I said, sometimes it is me and not you.
  6. Apparently I’m good at the dog paddle.