Thursday, January 17, 2008

Crushed Ego and Broken Contracts

In my 3DWiredSafety blog, I wrote about Internet Safety in the light of an something I had heard close to 50 years ago.

He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool.
Avoid him.
He who knows not and knows that he knows not is a student.
Teach him.
He who knows and knows not that he knows is asleep.
Wake him.
He who knows and knows that he knows is a wise man.
Follow him.

That not exactly the way I heard it and the story of behind my exposure to it is a powerful testimony to the impact a teacher can have on a student. My ninth grade English teacher defined a fool as one who knows not and knows not that he knows not.

English with Lyla Filippe was a mixed bag. She was stately and proper, but with a quick wit and sense of humor that could be hilarious, challenging, and humiliating all at the same time.

As a student, I tended to be a bit on the challenging side. I challenged authority, though not in a belligerent way. It would usually be with humor, quips, jokes, pranks, or simply playing devil's advocate.

While I hated diagramming sentences, I loved it when she read daily from South Pacific. When it came to the Canterbury Tales, I read them with difficulty, but tolerated them. If we were diagramming sentences and covering Chaucer in the same day, it bothered me. I could not see how either would help me in the future. I was always the one who queried, "How will this help me when I'm an adult?" and the standard answer of "trust me it will" did little satisfy me. It set the stage for trouble.

John Mahoney sat next to me in class. I have a feeling that he and I were on the same wavelength when it came to this class, though he was more of an English student than I. We both liked and respected Lyla, as we would refer to her out of class, but we both had that impish streak. It was he who put forth the spark that lit a fire under me.

One day while discussing Chaucer, she mentioned that little was known about his early life. I think something in that discussion is what led Mahoney to quip that Chaucer didn't really write the Canterbury Tales and that it was actually Chaucer's grandfather. I picked up on that idea and it became a running thread in our discussions over the next few days. At first Lyla was slightly amused, but as we pressed the point, her patience waned. One day she said, "That's enough. If you can even find anything about Chaucer's grandfather, I'll give you an A."

The gauntlet was thrown down and I picked it up. Over the next week, I scoured the school library and the Vineland public library. Unfortunately, nothing was available. Undaunted, somehow I convinced my parents to let me take the bus to New York and try the NY Public Library. It was there I hit the jackpot. I was able to come back with about three pages of written material on Chaucer's grandfather.

I presented my findings to an amazed and amused class and teacher. It was about two-thirds of the way through the marking period and at that point I had a B average. Resting on my laurels and my upcoming A, I relaxed and skimmed by the rest of the marking period.

On the day before report cards, Lyla would call us up to the desk one at a time to go over our grades. When my time came, I was shocked when she informed me that I had a C-. I was crushed!

Some might say I should have seen it coming, but deals such as mine for a grade were not uncommon. In fact, Chick Cowell, the gym teacher and one of my favorite teachers, would often present physical challenges in return for marking period grades.

Reminding her of our deal, she looked at me and said, "Who do you think I am, Chick Cowell?" I'm not sure which hurt more, her lack of respect of Chick Cowell or the fact that went back on her word. In any case, I simply said bitterly, "No, you are NOT Chick Cowell" and sulked back to my seat.

Neither one of us said anything more about it. I suspect and hope she had no idea how deeply she had hurt me and how much has taken place in that instant. Looking back, I can't hold that against her. She was otherwise even handed and a great teacher. Much of what I learned in her class, but positive and negative, carried over into my 35 years of teaching.  Along with the scar of that day came a valuable lesson that I have applied in adult life. It can be summed up in four words...


Saturday, January 5, 2008

Avenue Q and Why I Love My iPod

Jill and I took a bus ride to New York today to see Avenue Q. My commentary on the show is short and to the point. My sides hurt from laughing and my hands are sore from clapping. The thing is that in retrospect, it wasn't the fact that the plot was anything out of the ordinary. If the lines weren't delivered by puppets I wouldn't have invested the price of two movie tickets, but it was well worth the price of an iPod, which is a rather clumsy segue into my next topic.

We took the bus because is normally a very relaxing, stress free, and economical way to go into the city. A round trip senior citizen ticket from Toms River to NYC is $14. You get there faster than you would by car and you are right in the heart of the theater district.

Normally I take a book and/or my iPod to occupy the time, but this time I took neither, because Jill was with me and we don't share the same musical taste and it would be rude to read.

As things turned out I would have MUCH preferred head sets on a Y-splitter listening exclusively to Air Supply and Brenda Lee. Seated three rows behind us on the left were two twenty something girls and two rows behind us were two twenty something guys. All four talked loud enough for the back third of the bus to hear them.

Now, like I don't know like when you last listened to like four twenty something kids like talking, but like it's like and like bomb like exploded in the bus. Like I really missed my iPod. Like ya know what I mean?

I tried closing my eyes and thinking peaceful thoughts. Perhaps meditating would work, but every time the word "like" was like uttered, it was like a bullet like shattering the glass of my concentration.

The thing is that the guys were just talking to each other and the girls were just talking to each other. Thank goodness they didn't intermingle. Aside from the insanity that would have resulted, I'm afraid I would have had to kill all four of them on the spot in order to save humanity from the progeny that might have resulted from their meeting.

Port Authority was a welcomed site. We left, saw the matinée, and were debating whether to eat in the city or back in T.R. If we hurried, we could catch the 4:30 bus an be in T.R. by 5:45, eat and be home by 7:00. If we ate in the city we wouldn't be home before 8:00. We opted to try to make the 4:30 bus.

We made it with only about 5 minutes to spare. However, because the bus was filling up we had to sit across the isle from each other. No sooner were we seated then who should walk in. Like you guessed it. It was like the two girls! But it seemed that luck was with us. Since we couldn't sit together, neither could they and there weren't even single seats across the isle within shouting distance. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Seated directly behind me were two forty something women who started out in silence. It wasn't long before they struck up a conversation and began talking about husbands, children, and grand children. It was then a chill ran down my spine. One of the pair was articulate, but the other like, um, ya know, had honed her grammar to the point of like, um, ya know, not breaking one grammar law, but three at a time. Where are the grammar police when you want them?

I wasn't sure I could like, um, ya know, keep my sanity, but thankfully their conversation was short lived and they spent the rest of the trip in silence. As we neared T.R. I made a vow never to make that trip again without my iPod.

Like, nuff said?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Assault with a Dead Weapon

This just in from the Mesa County Sentinel. It reads like the classic joke we've all heard a thousand times...

A case against a 91-year-old man accused of rape threats is on hold so he can undergo a competency exam.

Ralph Ridenour, who is accused of threatening to rape a nurse during an October incident at a Palisade nursing home, might not understand the criminal proceedings he faces, Colorado Public Defender Steve Colvin said Wednesday.

Mesa County District Court Judge Brian Flynn granted the defense request.

Ridenour was excused from appearing in court Wednesday and will return to court Feb. 20. He is charged with attempted sexual assault through the use of force, attempted sexual contact through the use of force and false imprisonment.

'Nuff said?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Ma Bell and DYFS

I think if the phone company was my real Ma, I'd have to report her to DYFS. I'm getting ready to upgrade my phone and from what I can see, I have an old plan and will have to sign up for one of the new updated plans. However the problem is that my old plan has more features and minutes than I need or can possibly use. Of course the new plan has more features and more minutes, but it costs $10 more per month. Just what I wanted to do... pay more for more that is really less. Now I'm not the only one in this situation. Wait until you hear this little ditty thanks to governmental watch dog, Lauren Weinstein. In his latest audio blog, he tells us about Proposition S on the L.A. presidential ballot. In a nutshell, the proposition asks the voters to approve a decrease in the phone tax from 10% down to 9%. Sounds good, right? Wrong! What they don't tell you is that the courts have already ruled that the 10% tax is illegal and that voting Proposition down would likely reduce it from 10% to 0%. Can you say. "CHILD ABUSE"? Thanks, Ma Bell.