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.

.

.

.

.

.

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.

Being Badass and Other Traits of a Man of Action

Posted in Clue x Fours and Other Tools of Sanity, Jock Dork: It's Who I Am by Wingnut on August 5, 2010

It seems like weekly I’m leaving at least one interview feeling really good about my presentation and, weekly, I’m being hit in the mouth by multiple rejections. Yesterday was the latest in this push/pull existence, with two great interviews and three rejections [only one of which called me for an interview].

This post is not about complaining and trying to garner sympathy [though I will never complain when I get it]. It is about being a man of action1.

Yesterday, I interviewed for a position that had over 220 applications for a location in the barrio. I received another e-mail letting me know my application was being reviewed as part of over 200 for a high school position. A friend of mine told me that over 400 people applied for one position at her school.

Yeah, I’m…

With all of these laid off teachers, it’s a shark tank out there and the water has been chummed by politicians and beauracrats. Each open position is a drop of blood in the water and, if you’ve seen Shark Week, you know how that ends.

Being a man of action, I have tried to find ways to rise about the fray. Currently, I pass around my iPhone [No, not because they are wielding a droid and am an Apple snob]. I have two PowerPoint portfolios of student work uploaded to my phone.

Yesterday’s interviews included specific questions about a project displayed. The same student project piqued their interest. Obviously, it is proving an effective technique for displaying the best of what I have to offer. 2 It also proves I’m badass.

Yeah, you heard me. I’m badass3. Don’t believe me? Consider this: I may be the only one doing this. During or after at least five interviews in the past few weeks, panel members have commented that my presentation is a great idea and I am the first candidate ever to use this method of presentation [One of the APs yesterday even said I win brownie points for it].

See how badass I am? It seems so obvious to use Smartphones for portfolios. I’m shocked to hear I’m the only one, but I love being an innovator. [I’m considering purchasing an iPad for this very reason. Next level people?]

Back to the Task at Hand

I’ve been at this a couple months and, as you can read here, I am thoroughly exhausted by the process and feel for those who have been unemployed for far longer than I have. I’m not here to talk about that because I am a man of action. I have already begun formulating a plan ‘B’.

In many places, school is two to four weeks away. I still have some time. But, I don’t believe in waiting until the last moment. Men of action anticipate the future and plan for it.

Plan B for ClueXFour the English teacher involves the following:

  • Keep looking everyday [There will be jobs that come up even after the school year starts. To win, I must be diligent and steadfast in my pursuit]
  • Look for substitute openings in a desired target area [Since I’m already a sub in my former district, I am free to target those districts that I might like to work for in the future. It is all about getting a foot in the door and face recognition].
  • Figure out which CSET I can pass in the next 6-10 months and work on passing it. Be it science, math, social science, PE. Adding more authorizations to my credential opens up which jobs I can apply for next year. I am a quick study and an amazing test taker [In other words, let me see what I can BS my way through].
  • MASTER’S DEGREE. I have yet to decide whether it will be in English or Education. Either way, it will suspend student loan payments for a while and will make me even more qualified for next summer’s job hunt. It will also show that I’m not just sitting around moping about losing my full-time position.
  • Look for professional development opportunities: If there are conferences and seminars I can sign up for on the cheap, I will be sure to attend so that I will be even more prepared to meet the education challenges of tomorrow, or at least BS about them. It will also demonstrate my serious to not just mope jobless.
  • Even if I do get a job, consider any of the previous three options anyway, just in case.4
  • Focus on getting rid of some monthly bills so that I have even more freedom, financially, during the next round of job interviews.

This plan is still in the beginning stages of implementation. I am hopeful that today works out…or tomorrow works out. There is the possibility that my old district may call me back once Congress gets this bill passed to rehire teachers, firefighters and police officers. However, my district has made many poor choices and there is no telling on how they will try to spend the money.

At the moment, that is the future. Today, I’ll take some advice a long-time friend always has for times like them:

Get piss drunk and get laid!56

SIDENOTES:

  • A friend informed me that the minimum GPA for community college transfer students who hope to go to Cal State Fullerton has been raised to 3.7. Yes, you read that right. So much for equal access to education. When a CSU is using such high GPA’s as a screening method, a lot of students will be left out.
  • With Congress set to try to pass the emergency jobs bill next week, it will be interesting to see how districts choose to spend that money on recalling staff. In my experience, politics often get in the way of doing the right thing.
  • I can predict the future. Don’t believe me. I’m about to make a prediction for August/September:
    • Assuming the jobs bill passes, I’m willing to bet a number of teachers who have been hired this summer will scramble back to the security of “tenure” at their old districts. I am predicting at least one district that interviewed me will lose their new hire the moment their previous district recalls them. I’m willing to bet, though there will be no way to prove it, that at least one administrator will think “Why didn’t we hire that guy with the iPhone.”

Footnotes:

  1. C’mon! You know you want to be one too!
  2. No, it doesn’t mean they will hire me. It just means I’m finding ways to display the best of what I have to offer.
  3. Just face it, I rock. You can rock like me too…action people!
  4. Yes, I’m insane. I know.
  5. Any volunteers to help? For the second part…I can handle getting piss drunk on my own thank you.
  6. What? Did you think being a man of action was always about being responsible?

ClueXMIA: The Job Hunt and Emotional Exhaustion

Posted in Jock Dork: It's Who I Am by Wingnut on August 3, 2010
[Disclaimer: This post is helping me release some frustration. It will not be edited and probably contains tons of errors because, when it comes to freewriting, I often don’t pay attention to exactly what I’m typing]

I don’t understand how some people have been at this whole unemployed thing for prolonged periods of time without losing their mind [Actually, as I understand it, many people have].

When I went through this last year, I had a reasonable belief that I was going to still have a job at my current school in September. This year, I know that there is no job available. The emotions are very different and it has clouded many of my decisions over the past couple months on issues such as dating.

I know the current economy has created this situation for a lot of people, but there is something about the whole thing that just feels emasculating. I know there is less of a stigma today, but it sure doesn’t feel like it when you are actually saying, “I’m unemployed right now.”

Funny thing, a number of years ago, I wouldn’t have cared much about uttering that phrase. I was perfectly insulated in my self-impossed joblessness [largely due to depression]. This is different. I have worked very hard to become a dedicated/talented educator. I have done much to become the man I want to be. [This process contributed to the downfall of Ex-Fiance #1]

Last year, I was on the verge of buying a house [completing the sense of manhood…I understand that it doesn’t necessarily define being a man…it’s how it feels to me people!]. Now, I’m sliding backwards.

I am normally a positive person, but the repeated rejection has been difficult to swallow. After going on about a dozen  interviews and filling a total of 40+ applications, I am feeling drained.

Even when I nail the interview, I’ve been edged out by a slightly more viable candidate.  I sent a “Thank You” note to one principal who wrote back. She explained that I couldn’t have done any better in the interview, but got beat out by a slightly better candidate. She even recommended me to another principal in the district [with which I interviewed Friday] and asked that I consider applying in the future because she would be happy to have me as a staff member.

I don’t know whether I should feel uplifted by that e-mail, or depressed that even best hasn’t been good enough. What I do know, it is a swirl of emotions that I have not experienced in many years and would appreciate going away very soon. It is hard for me to completely articulate everything I feel.

Dating:

  • For the moment, I have called a complete moratorium on dating. I suppose I can still have “fun”, but I have nothing to offer anyone emotionally right now.  I am focused on being the best dad I can be and a good friend, when I can be.
  • I have also had to pull away from viable opportunities because of geographic concerns. My geography is undetermined right now and I have been applying for almost every available position in a 150-mile radius. In my opinion, if I did not take this into account when dating someone, it would be dishonest [I don’t believe in the “worry about it later” approach because then people get hurt]. I’ve had to cut off opportunities before anyone got emotionally attached because it was the right thing to do and the fair thing. I cannot encourage someone to fall in love with me, only for me to move to a distance of 100 miles, especially when they are tethered to geography because of other responsibilities.

Blogging and Twitter:

  • With the exception of the current blog, I haven’t had a whole lot of emotional energy or focus for writing anything. I have a lot of ideas, things I want to talk about, series to finish. I just can’t get up the mental energy to sit down and write.
  • I am finding ways to keep my mind of my current situation, which includes playing a lot of golf, going to the gym, hanging out with my daughters, and playing some video games.
  • Mental time is dedicated to tweaking things about my job hunting process to further gain an edge. For example, I just dropped $50 on two e-books on education that were written about one of the districts I’ll be interviewing at this week. I’m going to read as much of the important parts as I can after my interview tomorrow. If I can figure out what my interviewers are looking for specifically, I can tailor my answers to meet their needs. Basically, I’m cramming [This is what it’s come to]

I am working on shaking this funk. For the moment readers, I ask for your patience with my blog and tweets. I will be periodically MIA for a bit longer while I try to shake this funk and get back to being me.

With any luck, I’ll be employed and back to writing on a regular basis.

But don’t worry, I’ll still be reading and will comment from time to time over the next couple weeks. I may post some poetry or may even go back and post some blogs from when I was a blogger-in-training. 😉

[To those I’ve discussed the collaborative project with, I’m still piecing together my angle. I’ll be in touch tomorrow]