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Entry date: 11-22-2022 - Yesterday's lesson - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

Slight delay today as I passed out on the couch last night without writing the blog. There is no excuse, really, except for just being exhausted. 325,000 words or so, probably much more than that, and I’m feeling like I have told you all everything.

I haven’t, though. I’ve been skirting a lot of the really tough stories. Things I need to tell and get off my chest. Things that I know I will benefit from if I write about (and, really, through them). This is the soul-searching part of this journey and I’ve been avoiding a lot of it.

So, last night I came home from work and promptly drank two beers. I had a Dunkel left from a six pack I bought in Vermont in July. It was delicious. Then I had one of the Great North beers that I had left over at Doug’s last spring that Rhondi had brought home for me. It was a 7% or so and kind of did me in after a long day.

The Cardinal game also did me in, too. What a pile of crap. They teased me for the first half and then the 49ers just took them apart. Colt McCoy had to get the ball out really fast as the 49er defense had them figured out. There was nothing he could do.

I don’t know what the Cardinals are going to do, and my gut feeling is probably nothing, but it seems like we are going to have one of those teams that could be good but won’t be. I’ve expressed this before, I think, but I am pretty much a casual football fan. It doesn’t kill me if I miss a game, but I watch when I can. Last night I watched instead of writing, even though I knew I needed to write.

My students definitely have short timer mentality this week. We have school today and then are off the rest of this week. For those of you who have never been a teacher, this means that their attention span is short and their respect for my ability to make their week tough is nil. They know I want to be home relaxing as much as they do.

Many of my students have a pandemic hangover. They have gotten used to not having to do a whole lot of schoolwork and/or do not feel like they have to be responsible for completing things. I have a few, for example, who seem to think that a modicum of effort should be enough. Some are smart enough to get away with this and some are not.

It will be very interesting to see how this plays out over the next several years. I am beginning to fear that it will become an excuse for all involved, teachers and students, to just a little bit (or a lot) less than we know we need to do to get the job done during the school day. I can feel myself slipping into this trap, too, an awful lot.

I don’t yet know what the answer is except to hold students accountable for what I have assigned them to do. Yesterday, a student came up to my desk to show me the work that he had done and there was a pretty wide gap between what he had done and what I had told the class to do. As I calmly and constructively explained to him where the gaps were, he started to cry.

He’s 9 or 10 (fourth grade) and a real charmer. When he is talking to his neighbors or up moving around the room when he should be in his seat, I call him on it, and he just gives me the biggest, most charming smile. It’s his way, of course, of getting away with things. He’s cute as a button. He’s also learning that it doesn’t work with me, and it bummed him out yesterday.

He did go back and use the rest of the time to do his assignment correctly, which was awesome, but I’ve got a good eight or ten students who just don’t care enough to do that. I’ve got about six months to reach them, I suppose, so that is something to be encouraged by, but it also brings me back to that question of responsibility.

I know, at least for me, that learning to take responsibility for my actions has been a lifelong learning process. Realizing that I did things and needed to then pay the proverbial piper for them was not always easy. Growing up, I got bailed out a lot and I’m not sure it taught me the right lessons.

Sometimes I bailed myself out by figuring out an easier way to handle tough situations, but I realize that this only prolonged them and, eventually, I still had to deal with them or just learn to live with my shame. The latter, of course, sucks buttermilk even when I am the only one who is aware of this shame.

One of the things I want my students to walk away with this year is the understanding that they are capable of success and failure. We all make mistakes and if we take responsibility for our mistakes or failures or fuck ups, we can also learn how to not do them again. Sometimes it takes a few of these to realize how to fix it or to take a new path. Sometimes, it is only once, though, if we are willing to admit what we have done to ourselves and others and move forward.

Considering it is a joyous but tough time of the year for a lot of people, myself included, I guess we shall see how much of my own coming to terms with the past and the future I am ready to tackle. I can’t make any guarantees today except that I will do my best to not be late again as many of you like to read this first thing in the morning. Sorry for that.

Here we go!

See you tomorrow.

Sometimes, you need your old friends to show you the way.

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