Could be the after-Thanksgiving-pre-Christmas-post-COVID-languishing, could be the changing weather, could be the addictions (phones, pot, hate), and it could be that my students have finally hit the point where they truly don’t care. This is always a secret fear of mine, kinda like when we hit the point of no return with climate change, that there is a point where stupid finally overtakes intelligence. The lack of productivity was shocking this week so I did what all good alternative teachers do and I turned it into a lesson, this one about what matters.
And I get it, I want to roll over in the morning, read the papers online, become depressed and go right back to sleep. I mean, were you as excited as my wife and I were on Thursday for the great blue and red debate? Notebooks in hand as Sean Hannity started with a visual of the topics to be covered: Taxes, Economics, Immigration, Crime, Guns, Homeless, Education, Parental Rights, Abortion, Gas. We turned the debate off after 20 minutes because of what they actually talked about, poop, French Laundry, Gavin’s In-laws, porn and a ridiculous amount of overtalking which made me think I was back in my classroom listening to two bickering kids trying to one-up each other. Apparently, Hillary Newsom, was the one to stop the madness when both candidates wanted to continue after the allotted time. Let’s hear it for rational spouses reining in their husbands (and yes, I am also talking about myself).
But we’ve been wallowing in political dysfunction for many years now so let’s put a pin in that and get to the important stuff. Because there are plenty of students who do care, who come to school each day ready and willing to learn, looking forward to our little alternative school where we thankfully have the ability to react to problems and intervene when things seem to be going off the rails.
“You’re not teaching us shit that matters in life.” Said a 17-year-old in Geometry class this week. Did I suspend them for disrupting the lesson and swearing in class, no, I asked them what kind of shit matters in their life because I agreed with them and I know that predicting sequences (this week’s Geometry lesson) is something which will be on the STAR exam but really isn’t something that will affect their’s, mine, or anyone’s life. I did create a lesson around SVUSD’s declining enrollment for the last 3 years which also mostly fell upon deaf ears but made me feel like I was bridging the real-life-education gap. They, of course, thought the lesson was stupid even when I explained how fewer students means less money which means fewer opportunities which creates a cycle of decline. Depressed yet?
And because there is no giving up, no rolling over, and because I know there have been lulls in productivity before, failure is growth, change is the only constant, I could talk in bumper stickers all day but the most important one is tough times don’t last, tough people do. Unfortunately, a few of those tough people are our current leaders who are too busy fighting with each other to end the languishing. And can you really do much about international politics? Well, you could walk the walk, quit your job, sell your house, and go fight against the atrocities of Hamas or Russia but really, how many of us are going to do that?
You can do nothing about news cycle dystopia unless you follow the brilliant words of Skip Misker, “If you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own.” Humans make it all up, we move in the direction we choose because we no longer have to worry about survival (food, shelter, water, perpetuating the species). We are insanely lucky to have the free time we do so why are we not using it better? And why do I keep on writing about things which I know I should be living myself?
Like why do I keep starting these messy essays only to have them languish undone in the bottom of my Microsoft Word spacebar? “Getting old sucks” “Code Yellow” “The Death of Sam” “A lifetime measured in lemons” “My bully” these are the titles I have sitting on my trusty Macbook right now, some are insightful, some entertaining, some not so much. Will you ever read them? Probably not but maybe. Do you care about reading them? Probably not but maybe. Do I care about you caring about reading them? There’s the big yes.
I spoke at the last School Board meeting because my friend Connie wanted me to talk about how important Art is in the valley. What I left with was the understanding that there are a lot of smart people talking about a lot of things which need attention (the meeting apparently lasted until 3am-not a misprint). Now, I know we need plans and schedules and policies to function but can we also look at the big picture? Like what phones and pot and hate are doing to this generation.
My students and I spent a Thursday a couple of weeks back in code yellow lockdown from a threat. Other than a few glitches, the system worked as planned (the most interesting takeaway was when my son texted me a video at 10:30 saying, “Glad they caught the guy, hope you are safe.” It was a video of a student who left class in a panic during the lockdown and was detained by the police. Interesting both because it was totally not true and because my son lives 2500 miles away on the island of Oahu in the middle of the Pacific Ocean). Is anyone talking about the real problem which is misinformation and cell phones and overall violence in schools and the increase in guns. Yeah, not so much.
Tomorrow will be better only if we make it better.