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Spring is broken

March 26, 2013

The creation of this new blog coincided with the beginning of Spring Break here. ImageAppropriately, the weekend was filled with… snow. But the past two days have been two of the 300+ of sunshine each year in metro Denver, and the temps are gradually rising each day; Thursday & Friday, when I take my stepsons to the Royal Gorge, should be in the 60s.

Spring Break has long been associated with winter weather for me. More than once in my decade living here, it has coincided with a major blizzard. But the indelible memory is of my senior year of high school, March 1993, when I went on a camping trip with two of my best friends (and the brother and mother of one). It was my first and last time camping. The temperature dropped into the 30s (or near zero Celsius) with rain pounding down and pooling around the edges of the tent, slowly beginning to seep inside. By the morning that rain had changed over to snow, but we had all fled the ruined tents by that point.

Not a particularly unusual story, except that our camp site was near a beach town in the vicinity of Panama City, Florida. Yeah, that’s my luck.

Between watching the snow and going to the doctor to complain of my general unwellness if not outright illness since the beginning of 2013, I have begun grading. This is because I am, among other things, a lazy, procrastinating masochist. Whilst trying to enjoy a carefree,  sunny vacation, I am reading essay exams on the significance of Anne Frank’s diary and portfolios about the Holocaust.

Teaching this topic year after year has exacted an emotional toll, but it’s so important. Many of our students (especially boys) seem to lack a fundamental sense of empathy. I don’t think it’s just a function of the age. I think it’s a combination of the sense of entitlement with the desensitivity to violence from TV and video games, a toxic combination that leads children to not exhibit a basic caring for the plight of other human beings. Maybe it’s just a few in this particular group of seventh-graders. I hope it’s not generational. Now schools have to bear the burden of character education on top of academics, because many kids are not going to learn fundamental values necessary for the function of civil society anywhere else. But that’s an essay for another time.

In her first full diary entry, Anne Frank wrote that “paper is more patient than people.” The paper may now be a screen, but the truth remains the same. A blog can be the receptacle of one’s intellectual and emotional vomit and never complain. Readers may not be so patient, but the writer will always appreciate that blank space to fill that always listens and never judges.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 26, 2013 9:54 pm

    Thanks for the celsius reference. lol 🙂


    • March 27, 2013 7:49 am

      Ah you are welcome 🙂 I think it’s funny how Canadians have those subtle but pervasive differences to remind one that you’re not in the U.S.: the biggest one being the metric system. I mean, your money is also called dollars so if it weren’t for pictures of the Queen on them and the ubiquity of hockey, you might never know you’re in a different country– well, if you’re from one of those border states, Minnesota, North Dakota, eh?

      Really, I think the metric system makes much more sense. It’s a lot easier to remember parts of ten than various factors of 12 or 16 or 5280, though it would be hard to imagine Denver being called “The One Point Six Kilometer High City.” It’s real fun to see triple-digit speed limit signs, though 😉 I think this is the making of an entire post– thanks for kindling my nerdtastic inspiration 😀


      • March 28, 2013 8:34 pm

        I look forward to this future post. At one time, I have heard, we used to be imperial.. at least according to my parents and grand parents. Then they switched over and I know metric. However for baking, I use imperial and metric, I convert them back and forth. For driving, I enjoy the 3 digit speeds, however, converting into miles, I am able to guestimate how far a place is by time by using mileage. You need to see our new money though.. it is funny money. We also sadly no longer make the penny! 😦


  2. March 27, 2013 2:04 pm

    I am proud of you for getting your grading out of the way so you can have a fun time later this week. I know it is difficult to teach AF, but you’re really doing something important.


  3. March 31, 2013 3:17 pm

    Ah, teaching “character” in public school: probably futile, but a necessary endeavor nonetheless.

    It would help if we weren’t fighting an obsession with technical knowledge at the expense of humanities and liberal arts. I say this even though I teach math: I would much rather my students understand the value of learning, of patience, and endeavor to find meanings rather than focus on facts and the “right” answer.

    And don’t even get me started on pop culture.

    How does one teach empathy? Earlier in my life, I would have argued that empathy is a fixed characteristic, a predisposition. Our mutual friend has led me to reevaluate that notion; one year of knowing her has made me a more empathetic person. As teachers, I think the best we can do is to model our ideals, and try to create a classroom environment that fosters trust, belonging, respect, humor, and adventure.


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I teach, drink coffee, and occasionally write stuff.

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