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schoolin' (long and ot)

updated fri 2 jan 04


Joyce Lee on thu 1 jan 04

When I read the rationalizations (logical or not)
of any specific brand of education, memories
swell my weakened brain .... accompanied by
faces and names that morph into one another
.... until finally emerges full-blown images
of Jamie or Craig or so many others .... with
stories intact. =20

Seems that's what memories are ... for me
...... bits
and pieces ...... each represented by a vignette
that has deep meaning for me .... perhaps one
that was witnessed by no other .... yet moves me
and affects me for life. For me, teaching in a
public school system was a powerful
experience, one to be cherished
.... subject matter mastery was
necessary and had to be dealt with first.
Having accomplished that, I was free to
connect with whatever bit of True Selves happened
to float my way ..... in and around verb
conjugations that filled the air some periods......
and ..... "ahhh! I see..... I see it!...why the content=20
of this photograph is 'more moving' than that
one"...... why it works.... why putting them
against the wall and shooting is not good
enough"....... To connect
with "strange" kids (meaning not "one of us")
who wandered in with Word from The Office .....
and have them linger, eventually asking "How
do you get in this class? What's it called,
anyway? Leadership Training? I thought that
was a place to goof off .... to run around school
being important ..... you really do learn about
'leadership'??? How come nobody told me?"

I recall the kid who attempted suicide by=20
seriously overdosing in drama class (almost
made it) ..... later told the still distraught=20
teacher that
her class didn't Cause the suicide attempt.....
that he purposefully selected her class
because he wanted
to die where he knew somebody would care.
They did. Eventually he completed two=20
years in culinary school (one in class/lab
and another apprenticing) and is working in
a "good" restaurant in Nashville.

Next day I recall telling my classes that I'd
be in my room for two hours after the last
bell .... anybody thinking similar thoughts
could come see me so that we could find=20
some other acceptable (to them)resolution
to their intense unhappiness. I had in mind
several specific kids, of course. I
shouldn't have been surprised, but=20
nevertheless was, when a Bright&Shining
blonde, perky cheerleader/Homecoming
Princess bounced in just ahead of the two
hours. I thought she was there about
grades or making up tests she'd missed.
Turns out she was agonizingly unhappy,
horribly depressed (with good reason), that
her whole Cheery Self was a skillful
cover-up for what she considered to be a
Black Soul....... black because of what was
Done to Her, not for what She had Done.
She came home with me that night .....
not a good idea for a teacher to bring
home a student; not completely legal even,
but that's what we did........
next day all hell broke loose in her own
religion-driven home. BUT she got the help
she needed ...... has married for the third
time in her young life ..... last time I saw her
she'd made her way once again down our
desert road, this time to the studio...... asking to be
mentored in clay..... seemingly happy and
convinced that This Marriage was the one for
which she was destined. (Yes, I mentored
her and two of her little ones..... pure joy....
they've moved on now....... to another state......
a Happy State, I hope.)

And ..... just one more (out of hundreds)......
the charming, witty, super-brain and class\ clown of
a senior .... desperate because graduation was
looming and he knew he was headed for
Harvard and eventually either law or medicine.
(Test results, interviews by knowing university
reps ... all predicted success in either field.)
What he wanted ...... really wanted..... was to
be the Best Mechanic in the World. He'd
agree to graduate from college first if he'd
then be accepted by his family as Himself....
which apparently wasn't going to happen. His
equally charming and intelligent father=20
wanted His Son to be an example for other Black
Youths ...... wanted him to show the world what
"we" can do...... and, yes, be a mechanic ...
"fix cars" ....... as a hobby. Guess who won
that one? I was out of my league. My young
friend chose law, graduated from Harvard and
from what I think is a post-degree program at
the John F. Kennedy something or other. Very
prestigious. He's successfully practicing
in a very large city back east,
has a gorgeous wife
and twin sons ........ wonder how he'll feel if one
of the twins opts to be a "mechanic".......

The point is that public school teachers do a
great deal more than teach subject matter...... on
a daily basis ....... MANY public school teachers...

I could write a book about Teachers with whom
I worked after moving into administration ...... how
they, too, are only human ..... how some
recognize their own humanity as well as that
of their students..... recognize and honor it...
and use it to Make A Difference .... just need a
little help now&then from The Office. I was
thrilled to my toes to give it..... which was
allowed......... as long as I kept my place, of
course.... and cheerfully return to my "paperwork."
(A teacher friend told me once that she'd have
gone into administration except she wanted
to do something besides "paperwork." She
didn't know that the problem with an Open
Door Policy is that someone is always
walking through it and closing the door behind
them...... so the door is, in fact, most usually
closed ...... and that little paperwork is done
during the so-called Working Day. I didn't
enlighten her ... she needed to retain her
illusions..... I didn't.)

In the Mojave ...... been in the studio since before
dawn....... will be back out (hooray!) as soon as
I find out if granddaughter and grandson-in-law
are arriving today or tomorrow .... 2004 is
shaping up..... to be more full of hope than I'd