Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Check This Out

Have you ever been surfing the 'net, clicking on links, and find yourself a long way from where you started? I did that this morning and somehow found myself reading a blog called "Airprayer". The author is named Scott, lives in California, and is a private pilot.

But you need to read his story. In a nutshell, God worked through his autistic son to lead him to a commitment to Christ. I would urge you to click on "Airprayer" on the right side and when it comes up, scroll down some until you get to "My Side of the Journey."

It's a 3-part story so be sure you start with Part 1.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Well, I went all through the school year without being sick. As soon as there is no school, wham. Head cold and sore throat.

So I've spent the day doing little but rest. Perhaps that's what God wants me to do for a day or two.

My kids sure married well. Last Thursday night, I spent time at the Ballpark with son-in-law Michael. The game was slow and discouraging for the most part, so we spent a good deal of time talking about life (not necessarily "Jets and Life"). I'm so impressed with him. He is mature, level-headed, and most importantly, spiritual. Brooke is blessed to have him and vice-versa.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A Neat Story

Yesterday, we were guests at a 90th birthday party for Carole's aunt in Mt. Pleasant, Texas. There was wonderful conversation going on throughout the room. But I overheard an elderly gentleman talking about a parachute jump he had accomplished. This got me very curious and I was determined to speak with him.

I got him alone and asked him if this feat had occurred in World War II. (I'm almost obsessive about finding WWII veterans and expressing gratitude to them. We won't have them around much longer and don't give them the honor they deserve.) So I was assuming this elderly guy had perhaps parachuted over France or something. So, the conversation went something like this:

"Sir, I overheard you speaking about parachuting. Was this in World War II?

"No, I did this back when I was 90."

"Back when you were 90?"

"Yes. On my 90th birthday, I took my first jump. But it was a tandem jump. I was holding on to another guy."

"Have you jumped since?"

"Oh, no. Once was enough!"

Friday, May 26, 2006

Crossing over Jordan

Well, I wondered what the final day or days would be like. It turns out that my overwhelming feeling was relief. It's always a bit nervous on the last day anyway, not knowing if these kids - who are not worthy of much trust - have some tricks up their collective sleeves. But everything went smoothly.

Of course, a number of teachers were so kind and gracious in their comments to me. But at my school, I'm somewhat a victim of my personality. I'm a very private person there...I don't go to after-school parties and I don't go drinking with the guys on Friday afternoon. Also, there has been such a turnover at Hood that I either don't know or barely know many of the staff members. My closest faculty friends have generally retired.

So now the fun begins! More time with Carole. No more weekends with stacks and stacks of papers to grade. And, more time to be a servant. One immediate retirement goal I have is to use my extra time doing things for people. If I can accomplish that, my retirement will be fulfilling and successful.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Crunching the Numbers

Numbers are cold.

They don't tell the real story behind all the personalities involved in a career. But here are some estimates I've thrown together to quantify 36 years of teaching.

Number of students I've taught: 3,960

Number of times a class has walked into my room: 31,850

Number of times a black girl has thrown me up against a wall: 1

Number of referrals written to send kids to the office: 1000+

Number of times I was pleased with the discipline meted out: less than 20

Number of times I was nervous the night before the first day of a new year: 36

Monday, May 22, 2006

Is There a Jinx?

As I type this, the 4th quarter of the Mavs/Spurs is occurring. I was devastated when Brett called me at the end of the 1st quarter. You don't do this. You don't start calling relatives to gloat when there are 3 quarters to play. I tried to get him to hang up, but he kept talking and kept talking. So, by the time you read this, we will know if my jinx theory is correct. Mavs are up by 7 with 9:20 to play.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Monday, Monday

Whoa. My final Sunday night before my final DISD Monday. This has usually been a time when I start to get my game face on. There is little levity as I would gather myself mentally for another week of over-crowded classes.

This Sunday is different. I'm almost giddy. The light at the end of the tunnel has grown large, big as a searchlight. Two exams given tomorrow and two more on Tuesday. By Thursday around noon, DISD will have extracted its last minute of labor from me. 1970-2006. I think on my next blog I will throw some numbers at you...boring stuff like how many individual classes walked into my room and how many students I estimate have been bored by me in 36 years.

Anyone wanna trade places with me?

Friday, May 19, 2006

Great Lines from Not-so-great Hymns

I often think about hymns I grew up with. I dutifully sang them along with hundreds of other good folks at the Peak and Eastside Church of Christ in Dallas. Many of the hymns, however, had lyrics that were absolutely meaningless to a six year-old. And maybe even a sixty-six year-old. We have made such strides with our worship music. With the possible exception of "Days of Elijah", the words are intelligible and meaningful.

But let's harken back (whatever that means) to the days of yesteryear. One of the hymns sung with regularity at our place was a ditty called "Crossing the Bar". This one always sent me into an intellectual free-fall. It started with the word "bar". Growing up where I did, "bar" always meant a seedy beer joint on Samuell Blvd. Why would Christians even be near there, let alone "cross" the bar?

A section of the lyrics now seems hysterical in light of our land-locked, 1950's-ish congregation:

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound or foam

Can tides sleep? What would cause them to be "too full for sound or foam"? Too much shrimp the night before? How many shrimp does it take to rob a tide of its foam?

And what in the name of Alfred Lord Tennyson (he wrote those immortal words) does this have to do with the Church of Christ being the only true church?

I welcome your own recollections.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Hitting the Wall

Well, the final days of this little career of mine are here. And the overriding feeling I have is.......fatigue. This is not exclusive to me. All teachers this time of year are worn down by the experience of dealing with students. So many demands are made on your time and energy. Unfortunately, this time of year also uncovers latent disrespectful attitudes of some kids, who feel emboldened to smart off to adults and get their jollies that way.

There is not a singular, final moment in this process of ending my work life. It would be so much more dramatic if it all came down to one final moment when audience is clapping and the curtain comes down. But it is happening in stages. I had my final lecture two days ago. The last regular test was yesterday. My last class will be Tuesday, but I'll be exiting the room 10 minutes early to get to my bus ahead of the riders. On Wednesday, I drive the bus but have no classes. On Wednesday afternoon, the faculty has a short retreat and meal where the 3 retirees will be recognized. On Thursday, I turn in my grades, load up my car and leave.

Then, I step into a completely different phase of my life.

And start taking naps.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Hot Dog

My previous blog indicated that I had trouble finding my car after the airshow. It's not a pretty story.

I left the final act, the Blue Angels, 15 minutes early so I could get a jump on the thousands in attendance who would be fleeing the scene shortly. I was carrying my photo gear (heavy), a backpack containing a large plastic canteen that was half-full of lukewarm water, and a new lawnchair. The lawnchair was not one of those lightweight models that can substitute for a Frisbee at a picnic. It was a substantial model, with a sturdy metal framework and a canvas seat-back. I estimate that I was carrying 30 lbs. of stuff.

As soon as I entered the parking lot, I was already in trouble due to dehydration. Despite drinking excessively during the six hours there, the 90-degree heat and steady wind left me with enormous thirst and the old cottonmouth condition. It would be imperative to get to the car quickly.

I was in the wrong lot but didn't know it. For the next 45 minutes, I walked back and forth across the lot, vainly pushing the panic button on my keyring, hoping my car would talk back to me. I was getting enormously hot and dehydrated to the max.

I did have one option. I was there with a photography friend named Vasanth Darmaharthan, or something like that. He's from India, the son of a neuro-surgeon, here to get an advanced computer degree and work for IBM. He is, in a word, brilliant. And he had parked his car next to mine. Maybe he could help. I called his cell phone at least six times. He answered every time, but you must understand that his mastery of English isn't quite complete yet. In fact, it's far from complete.

I was never able to explain where I was to the point where he understood and could come rescue me. This was a huge psychological blow because he seemed to be my not only my best option, but my only option. The situation got very critical very quickly. My skin became cold to the touch and I quit sweating. I knew those were danger signs, but I did not want just yet to give in and ask one of the many people walking to their cars to please, get me some help.

I finally managed to make it back to the entrance to the lot. I had learned from Vasanth that I was simply in the wrong lot. But there was a tall fence keeping me from entering it. I found a volunteer and asked him how I might get access to the correct lot. His answer indicated that I might have another half-mile just to get into the lot. It was at that point, I collapsed mentally and physically. I told the guy that I was in trouble with the heat and to call someone. At first he demurred. But I was insistent. My voice was about gone and at this point, I was lying on the hot concrete, a victim of my own stupidity.

Two minutes later, a golf cart arrives. It has "MEDICS" emblazoned on its plastic windshield. I told them I needed to
be taken to my car, that I thought I could handle the impending heat stroke if they could just find my Honda. They loaded my gear on the back of the cart and within another two minutes, I was at my car.

During the ordeal, I had tried drinking the water I was carrying, but I might as well have been trying to drink sea water. It was simply too hot. I tried praying...many times. The Lord did come through, but only after I had given up on the great "I AM" and was praying to Baal.

About an hour later (the traffic was miserable), I pulled into a convenience store and bought two cans of Sprite. I felt that if I bought cold bottled water, it would make me bloated. I'm crazy that way. The Sprite flooded into the dry riverbeds of my body, bringing healing and life to my withered self.

I do believe my brain was fried by the experience. So future blogs probably won't have the impeccable grammar you're used to, nor the riveting wordplay. Just deal with it.

Enjoy the above shot of a Russian MiG I took before I marched in the wilderness.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Air Show

I'm back from the airshow and it was not easy. More in my next blog on my travails in trying to find my car after the show.

Meanwhile, enjoy the mind-boggling precision of the Blue Angels.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Just When You Think...

The good news is that my blogs on the haplessness of a certain urban middle school will soon be o'er. I wait expectantly for the days when I have no educational garbage to report.

Yesterday, the principal was missing during the lunch periods. During "B" lunch, a fight broke out that spilled out of the cafeteria and into the hall. Our security guys immediately went to the hall to try to break it up. This proved difficult because each pugilist had his own "homies" rushing to join in. Meanwhile, back at the cafeteria, the mother of all food fights broke out. Burritos were sailing through the air like homeruns at the Ballpark. One girl was hit in the face with a frozen juice container.

It took a long time to restore order. "B" lunch went on for about an hour as administrators made everyone pitch in to clean up the mess (They were threatened with immediate suspensions if they didn't.)

I found it odd today when our head principal, a real law-and-order guy, did not bring up the riot in his morning announcements. Then "A" lunch happened. Another donnybrook food fight broke out. And this with the head man himself present plus numerous DISD police in attendance. After the conclusion of A lunch, the principal finally went to the intercom to warn the students.

All year long there has been a gradual slippage in what was tolerated at my school. By April, it pretty much took a felony to get suspended. The events of the past two days are the inevitable by-product of such lazy discipline.

Stay tuned. There are 8 more school days.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

My Blue Heaven

This Saturday, I go to my first airshow. I expect six or seven hours of neck-bending excitement and skin-reddening sunshine. The final act will be the above Blue Angels. Please note that they were off just a little bit in the picture. Tsk, tsk.

I will have camera and monster zoom lens in hand.

Be still, my beating heart.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

What a Way to Go

I have no second thoughts about retiring. One reason is because of days like today. There was no air-conditioning at our institution of lower learning. The temp today was 96 with a heat index of 108.

You know, I could take the situation a lot better if there were just communication about the situation. But the folks in charge made nary an announcement about it. Not a "we're working on it" or "this could take a while". And most importantly, not even a "we're so sorry."

Teachers can take a lot. They can take the kids. They can tolerate the parents. They can even withstand the pay. But when you consistently tell them they're not important, they collapse under the strain and bail out of the profession.

This has been the modus operandi at my school for years. The best and the brightest have moved on or moved out. Left in their places are the naive or the incompetent.

Our society will pay the penalty for this nonsense. (Sidenote: put your kids in a Christian private school. Whatever the cost, it's worth it.) Oh, yeah...only 11 days to go!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Setting a Tone

I thought I had gone to my final assembly, but alas on Friday, there was the obligatory Cinco de Mayo program. Here are two notes from this DISD-sanctioned event:

It seems we can't celebrate somebody's heritage in our district without letting members of that ethnicity dance in a vulgar manner on stage. We had 12 dancers, six of each gender. There were several moments the males turned their backs to the audience and faced a female...and then began imitating pelvic thrusting. Naturally, the street-savvy kids in the audience went wild.

Then, our Hispanic assistant principal took the microphone and shouted the following: "We were here before the white man, we were here before the black man was brought here against his will, and we plan on staying here!"

There are two problems with this. First, there is questionable historical accuracy here. It all hinges on his definitions of "we" and "here". I won't go into this further. You can probably see what I mean.

But more importantly, why make such an inflammatory remark to middle schoolers in this time of huge racial tension in our country? We, I thought, were striving for racial harmony and this is like throwing gas on the fire.

I'm so glad I have only 13 days left as an employee of such an embarrassing employer.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Understanding Your Chances

I will bow to public pressure and, for the first time ever, explain how to interpret your rain chances. There is so much unnecessary confusion when the National Weather Service tells you you have "X" % chance of rain. I mean, it looks simple enough. You'd think that, say, with a 20% chance of rain, you'd have a 10% better chance than with just a 10% chance. But years of experience and study have taught me that numbers lie.

Let's break down the numbers and what to really expect. Remember now, this is groundbreaking stuff. I could have kept this kind of breakthrough material under wraps. But I'm first and foremost a public servant. Even though I could sell these secrets for many millions, I choose to stay humble and not mercenary.

10% chance: Rarely used and seen only in forecasts put out on the NWS's website. It indicates a total lack of confidence in rain chances and is used when a few cumulus clouds will interrupt a clear sky. Furthermore, I contend it shall not ever rain with a 10% chance.

20% chance: This is a cover-your-bases percent used by the NWS that unnecessarily gives hope to the masses. It should be discarded and never used. It mainly is used in August when the NWS knows that out of the 7500 cumulus clouds, two are going to produce rain. So they string along the public much like a 2 AM infomercial.

30% chance: I consider a 30% chance really half that. The NWS nerds use it when some over-estimated factor has grabbed their imagination...usually in the summer as they bow to public pressure to DO SOMETHING!

40% chance: This is a good percentage. It rains 62% of the time when there's a 40% chance. There is no explanation for this other than NWS incompetence.

50% chance: Not so good. Part of the problem is with the fact that "5" is an odd number. Odd numbers are not good. September 11, 2001 is really a combination of three odd numbers...9,11, and 2001. Crazy Chrissy Columbus "discovered" America in 1492, an even number. I was born on 10-12-48, three even numbers. I've made my point. My studies show that with a 50% chance, actual chances are really 31.3%, an odd number.

60% chance: Prepare for a good, soaking rain. My data says it'll rain 82.24% of the time.

70% chance: The public gets all excited with such a high number. They cancel picnics and outdoor weddings. They storm the hardware stores (so to speak) for rain gauges. Surprisingly, this is one guess that the NWS scores on. Personally, I think it's just God taking care of people less smart than I.

80% chance: Bingo! This is the one you pray for. It's an even number. And my research shows it's a sure thing. Not an 80% thing, a SURE thing. Need proof? I went through microfilm libraries around the world and discovered (amazingly) that there was an 80% chance of rain for these well-known events:
a. the Johnstown flood
b. Noah's flood (an unprecedented 40 straight days and nights of 80% chances)
c. Katrina

90% chance: This is a little creepy. It is rarely used and the great unwashed public (get it?) hardly knows what to make of it. They wonder, "If it's almost a certainty, what is it lacking?" Doubt clouds (get it?) their minds and gives way to unabashed hand-wringing (get it?). And with good reason. This odd number percentage has produced rain exactly 47.313% of the time since statistics have been kept. (Statistics have been kept since Joseph interpreted Pharaoh's dreams and Potiphar was given the first annual Troy Dungan award).

100% chance: Amazingly, this is the 2nd biggest fraud ever perpetrated on the American public. An Oak Ridge Boys tour is number one. This percentage is the kiss of death. It never rains when the NWS is suckered into this "sure thing". There are no sure things, except an 80% chance of rain, or Richard Sterban showing us his chest hair (singular).

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Today, I told my six classes that I was retiring at the end of the school year. I didn't know what to expect but generally they went "Awwwww" in a nice sort of way. I don't want any to-do made over this but I also felt like they deserved to know.

What I find myself doing is monitoring how I feel as the time grows nigh. Already, I'm finding myself walking away from situations in the halls of our hallowed institution - reminding myself that, at this point, a scuffle just isn't worth it. I'm paying attention to my joyous/melancholy meter. Thus far, no sadness has crept in...just happy expectation.

I guess in a couple of weeks, I'll be reporting in on how I feel after my last lecture, after my last exam, and when the last class walks out. I may break down and sob like a baby, not out of sadness, but out of respect for the Father, who has gotten me through so many tough times in 36 years. Of course, I may also yell, scream, holler, and laugh uncontrollably as another phase of my life begins.