Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My Favorite Teachers Were English Teachers

MJ was telling me about one of her students who, when asked about a late assignment, answered her honestly, and told her he just wasn’t going to turn it in. MJ respected his honesty for an instant and then melted down on him; letting him know that she’s dragged students up to school to finish their work after summer began before, and she doesn’t have a problem doing it again. I’ve been there and I empathize with the youngster. I went through this with some of my English teachers, and twenty years later they’re the teachers I remember. Most of the others I wouldn’t spit on if they were on fire, but that’s stuff I probably need to work through. I had great English teachers in 7th, 8th, 9th, 11th grade summer school, and 12th grade.

First up is Mrs. Korn from 7th grade. She was part Paula Deen and part rolling ball of butcher knives. She was the first teacher to look me dead in my eye and ask me what the hell is wrong with me. How could I not respect that? Thanks to her I haven’t misspelled “a lot” since 1982. She was the first teacher to call me on my B.S., not because it was B.S. but because it was sloppy. I can’t remember the last time I thought about her before today. She left at the end of the year.

In 8th grade it was Mr. Isaac. Mr. Isaac was part William F. Buckley and part Al Bundy. I had a zero in his class, and when he sent home a scholarship warning I forged my Pops’ signature. Mr. Isaac didn’t say anything until he had a conference with my parents. I’d spent a full 9 weeks convincing my parents what a rotten teacher he was, and they had my back walking into the conference. Before they could sit down Mr. Isaac dropped the forged document on the desk and asked, “Mr. J, is this your signature?” My parents just wanted a piece of my backside walking out of the conference. I did things the way Mr. Isaac wanted in his class for the rest of the year, and I was introduced to critical reading.

9th grade was Mr. Weatherly, the coolest teacher in the history of teachers. He was a surfer and he was on our side. He wouldn’t let the administration take kids out of his class unless he thought they had a good reason. He was an ABC after school special teacher. He had a wife and two kids, yet he spent a ridiculous amount of HIS time helping us. Stanton is a magnet school so kids come from all over Duval County; that’s more than 840 square miles. The only way kids could hang out together before we were sixteen was to stay after school. My friends and I were bitching about not being allowed in the gym after school. We were bitching to each other, not to Mr. Weatherly, but he asked why they wouldn’t let use the gym since it was just sitting there empty. We couldn’t use it because there was no one to supervise us, so it was a liability. The next week he started after school athletic programs in the gym twice a week. He also did his job. One day he lost it and started screaming at us because no one could actually write a sentence. We started from scratch writing subject and verb. It progressed into these ridiculously long sentences that didn’t mean anything but they had lots of parts of speech. I learned the difference between direct and indirect objects. I’ve forgotten the difference between the perfect and pluperfect tenses but I knew them cold in 9th grade. Mr. Weatherly deserves his own post because I’m pretty sure he kept me out of a bell tower with a high powered rifle.

I took 11th grade off. I loved every minute of that year, but hated everything about school. I hated all of my teachers and I still do. I failed five classes that year so I had to go to summer school where I met Mr. Thompson. Mr. T was part Superfly – he had a gold tooth – part Bill Cosby. We had to do busy work. He knew it. We knew it. He knew that we knew it, but he was still able to make those six weeks palatable. He also looked up my transcript, sat me down and explained how close I was to not being able to graduate in the spring. He didn’t have to do that. I remember him saying, “You don’t seem like the type of fella that wants to spend any more time here than you have to.” He taught remedial kids during the school year, but he kept an eye on me even though I wasn’t one of his students. He gave me my “Oh, snap!” moment in the summer of ‘87 with enough time to change my evil ways and graduate in the spring of ’88.

12th grade was Dr. Alexander. She’s the only one on this list that I didn’t like. She was basically Stone Cold Steve Austin’s mom. She was from Texas. She was mean. But she loved poetry, and she taught it very well. She taught me how to tie a poem to a chair and beat a confession out of it. Her class was AP English, which I was taking for the 5 point grading i.e. an A was worth 5 grade points instead of 4 as far as colleges were concerned, and I needed all the help I could get. I had no intention of taking the AP exam however. I had planned on skipping school that day until she asked in a very mild mannered tone if anyone wasn’t planning on taking the exam. I felt the disturbance in the force and knew to keep my mouth shut. Some idiot didn’t and answered her honestly. She went double-aught drill sergeant on him, and I decided the prudent thing would be to take the exam. I’m sure if I had skipped both the exam and her class she would have hunted me down, shot me, and mounted my head over her mantle.

These were the only teachers who helped me learn how to think. I learned math but that was a skill. Nothing above basic arithmetic, which I had figured out in 3rd grade, is applicable in my life. Everything I was taught in a science class I learned was crap in college. And I’m sure that there is a bigger waste of time somewhere in the universe – possibly blogging – than social studies but I haven’t found it. I would like to thank these five teachers. If I saw Mrs. Korn, Mr. Isaac, Mr. Weatherly, or Mr. Thompson in a restaurant I would walk over, reintroduce myself, and offer to pick up the check. Dr. Alexander I would just send a gift certificate - anonymously in the mail.

Monday, May 26, 2008

No Boundaries Part Deux

Beth asked for some links to the music I wrote about earlier so here's a video. This is my main man Michael Angelo playing his tune No Boundaries. I don't think he's homeless, but you can't tell that from his sweet attire.

It's a beautiful day today. Red Stripe (Hooray Beer!) was on sale for $10.99/12pk and there was a $2.00 instant coupon as well. I poured some out in tribute to the fallen. Happy(?)Memorial Day.

Software companies have been promising voice recognition software for at least 14 years. Where is it? I'm too good to type. It's beneath me. My blog would be much more interesting if I could ramble into a microphone incoherently and then publish it. I'd be like Bill O'Reilly.

Florida State sucks.

Friday, May 23, 2008

No Boundaries

I’m being forced to write this. Blogging is so 2007. I haven’t been writing because I’m in a rut. Nothing cool is happening outside of my daughter’s development, but I’m not going to write about that all of the time because I’m not a chick. So this will be about the change in my running music. What seems to work best for me is neo-classical electric guitar aka shredders like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and my new discovery Michael Angelo Batio. None of this stuff is any good. It’s all contrived; nothing but arpeggios up and down pre-selected scales played as fast and clean as possible. It’s a display of supreme dexterity and nothing else. What’s funny is that all of these guys list Jimi Hendrix as their main influence, yet nothing they do is spontaneous, and Hendrix was nothing but spontaneous. But there are about two hours of stuff that I like and the mix of light speed licks and slow rhythms works to keep the feet moving. I’ve been running to it for about a month and it hasn’t gotten old. I don’t even have to randomize it.

Battlestar Galactica is the greatest show ever.