Tag Archives: Education

Rob reads…The Diary of a Young Girl

A few days ago I finished reading Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl.  I’ve personally read the play “the diary of Anne Frank”  a few times as a student and have now taught it several times as a teacher; but this was the first time I read the diary – from which the play was based – itself.  Having said that, I knew the story, as it is fairly common knowledge – Anne Frank, a Jewish girl, spends two years in hiding with her family in order to avoid be arrested in Nazi-occupied Holland –  but I was surprised at how much the play glossed over some of the real-life facts.  Granted, the play would have to leave out some details for the sake of time, but I think that the play does so to a point that it doesn’t do Anne Frank –  the young girl or her thoughts  and  experiences in hiding – justice.

3 things prompted me to read the diary at this time:  One, As a teacher on summer break, I have the time.  Two, Anne Frank and her experiences have been discussed in two movies  I recently re-watched:  Freedom Writers  and The Fault in Our Stars (both based on books themselves).  Three:  While teaching the play this past spring, I had a student ask me “What is the big deal about this book?”  I thought the answer was so self-evident that I struggled to even answer it.

I’m not going to try and critique the diary or say anything new about it.  Countless other critics and historians who are far more articulate than I am have done that.  Rather, I want to point out some difference between the play The Diary of Anne Frank and the original work The Diary of a Young Girl.

Some of the things that stuck out with me:

  • the extent of frustration Anne felt with both her mother and her father.  This is not so surprising to hear from a teenager,  but the play glosses over Anne’s clashes with her mother and virtually ignores her growing disconnection with her father.
  • Anne’s burgeoning sexuality and the fluidity of it.  The play addresses the courtship of Anne and Peter, but completely ignores Anne’s innermost personal thoughts and curiosities about members of the same sex.
  • The sheer monotony of life inside the Secret Annex.  The Anne Frank of the play talks of life in the Annex as if it is some adventure.   While in the diary Anne does at times romanticize her time in the Annex, she makes sure to address the sheer monotony of life there.
  • the hardships that come along with living in forced isolation:  having to remain silent out of fear of being discovered; being forced to eat the limited food options available, never being able to go outside, as a young person, growing out of the few clothes – among others.

If I could have a conversation with that one student who asked me “What is the big deal about this book?”  I would probably tell them this:

The Diary of Anne Frank was written by a girl who was your age (or close to it) and tells of her first-hand experiences trying to survive through perhaps the greatest atrocity in human history – The Holocaust.  It is a story about a young person going through a lot of the same hopes, fears, dreams and anxieties as yourself.  From a historical point-of-view, The Diary… is the great primary-source about life in Nazi-occupied Europe.  For millions of people worldwide, it has been the gateway into learning about the Holocaust.  And finally, it well-written personal journal by an extremely gifted writer who was cut down way before her time.

I don’t normally talk about stuff like this on this blog, but I have toyed with the idea of having a “Rob’s Book club” type feature on here for some time.

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Sub-suburban educational blues

The pressures of teaching all caught up with me yesterday:  Coming in late in the school year, getting to know the kids, their backgrounds, the pressures they fact and the expectations placed upon them – or in some cases lack thereof; report card grades coming up and preparing for my first formal evaluation all hit me with the force of a Mack truck.

I literally worried myself sick.

The truth is, I think know that I have dealt with anxiety for as long as I can remember.  I’ve always had trouble sleeping.  Even as a kid, people told me I was a “worry wart”.  I was so intimidated by my second grade teacher that I worked my stomach into a tizzy throughout that entire school year.  A few years ago, I was prescribed anti-depressants which may have fixed a short-term problem, only to hide something I’ve been dealing with all my life, namely anxiety.

Yesterday was my breaking point.  Enough is enough, I decided.  Yesterday was the last time I will ever allow myself to make myself sick.  I’m seeing my family doctor in two days, which makes me feel better about things.

The one thing I’ve always said, even when I had my teaching job down South is that education programs do not prepare teachers for the psychological aspects of teaching.  It’s not an easy job. Teachers take their work home with them every single night.  their kids become a part of their everyday lives.  Sure you get weekends and summers off, but you don’t get to take long lunches, or cut out early or even go to the bathroom whenever you fee like.  I know this may sound like whining, and maybe it is, but I’m ranting.

I got game

hard time, indeed

hard time, indeed

Today I substitute taught at a juvenile correctional facility.

Juvie.

I had heard about the facility a while ago, and i was tempted to fill-in there but it wasn’t until I talked to some teachers at another local school that I really thought i’d give it a try.

Like a lot of people, I was nervous to go there.  I was intimidated by the fact that the kids there are…incarcerated.  But the more I heard about it, the more intrigued I was:  small class sizes, no possibility of snow days, kids whose very freedom depends on their cooperation with authority. From what I could see, these weren’t bad kids.  they are kids who did some really dumb, or even bad things; but they themselves did not seem like bad people.

I played basketball with the boys’ PE class.  It was probably the one time of the day that they are allowed outside and the closest thing they currently have to a sense of freedom.  I’ve never been much of a basketball player.  I’ve always lacked the coordination for the sport; but I wanted to connect with the kids.  I actually scored 8 points.

The entire day was a very…humbling experience.  It really helped me put a lot of things into perspective.  Concerns and stressors that I’ve had lately suddenly didn’t quite so important.  The kids with whom i worked were pretty much stripped down to the basics – literally.  These are young people who have lost their freedom.    The experience mad me not only appreciate the small things; but it also made me realize that things currently can and will work out .

Naturally, seeing these young people there naturally got me thinking about The Kid and hoping that he stays out of trouble. Given the chance, I would most certainly work at this facility again.

Weathering the storm

A valuable lesson in checking your e-mail on a timely basis:

This past Sunday I opened an e-mail from Jabba explaining that her dad had died that Friday night.

It seemed both crazy and not at all unexpected.  He’s had health issues for some time.  I also know that the last few times I asked Jabba how he was doing, her response was “not good” though she never really elaborated. I suppose I should have expected such curt responses from her.  After all, we are divorced; but I was always legitimately concerned with her father’s welfare.   I wonder if I’ll ever get used to the fact that I am now at the age where my parent’s generation – The Baby Boomers – are slowly beginning to die off and we, the children of the Baby Boomers – Generation X if you will – are inheriting the Earth.

Jabba’s Dad was always very good to me; regardless if how bizarre her mother got at times.  Even after Jabba and I split up he was very friendly with me when I was in SC dropping The Kid off at their house. During my previous life, I even got to the point where I began to address her parents as Mom & Dad; so it was a little weird when Jabba and I initially split up and I began to call him by his first name.

As I always tend to do when someone I know dies,  Jabba’s Dad’s death has me thinking of mortality:  mine, my parents, The Auteur, even our kids.  Life is too short and I often feel like I’ve been just spinning my tires.  I’m 40 years old and what do I really have to show for myself? I know, it often takes years for people to rebuild their lives following a divorce; but for me it feels like the same old problems in my life.  Something, a lot of things, need to change.

I really worry about how The Kid is taking all of this.  He’s holding up pretty well, from everything I’ve seen and heard.  This is probably the first death of a real close loved one he’s dealt with.  Jabba’s dad lived with them for almost two years after her and I split.  That’s got to affect him more than we realize.  Jabba’s mother died a few years ago, but he was way too young to remember that.  The sights and sensations of a funeral may stay with him for a long time.  I wish I had the means to be there for him tomorrow.  Even if I could, I’m not sure how appropriate it would be for me to be there.

The funeral is tomorrow, so Jabba and The Kid are in town as Jabba’s dad is being buried in his hometown here in Michigan.  The Kid and I got together for a few hours yesterday.  Though the reasoning behind The Kid’s visit made me sad, I was so happy to see him yesterday.  We played at an indoor playground called The Treehouse.  It was the kind of pure unadulterated fun that I desperately needed right now.  I’m especially happy to say that he’s still small enough that I can life him up and put him on my shoulders.  I know that sounds corny, but I want him to remain small for as long as possible.  I already miss far too much of his everyday life for my taste.    Saying goodbye to him was, of course, sad.  I hated to see him go. I know he hated saying goodbye to me too.

I miss him more than I realized.  I miss doing everyday stuff with him:  playing, hearing about his school day, meeting his friends.  I have to find a way to visit with him this summer.  I’m not sure where we’ll stay or for how long, or how I’m going to fund such a venture, but I have to find a way to make it happen.   The truth is, I’m not involved enough in his life.  I have to change that.  I have to force that change if necessary.

There’s a sign in the classroom that I’m subbing in today that reads “Conflict Facilitates Change”.  That’s some food for thought today.   We’re watching a clip from “America:  The Story of Us” covering the start of the Great Depression. The overriding theme of this segment is the American “Can Do” attitude and our ability to persevere through adversity; again, more food for thought.

Maybe Shirley Manson said it best when she sang “the trick is to keep breathing.”

The hardest goodbye of all

Two things prompted me to create this post tonight: a post on a blog that i follow HERE and a phone call I had with the Kid a short time ago.  He and  I spoke briefly tonight – he had a friend staying the night at his house.  He informed me about a fishing trip Jabba is taking him on later this week.  He told me “I wish you could go” which really struck me, I think because he is still only 6 years old but he is maturing and I see him developing a sense of empathy.  This conversation, the aforementioned link and the fact that I’ve never written about this topic – to the best of my knowledge – are the brainchildren of tonight’s post.

Forgive me if I’ve posted about this before.  I haven’t gone back yet to review my earlier posts.

Far and away, the absolute hardest part of my divorce was saying goodbye to my son; more specifically, my decision to leave him and the home in which he lives under the care of Jabba.  It was not an easy decision for me to make; and to be fair, it’s not an easy decision for any father worth his weight to make. I can’t speak for all fathers who have to – or chose to – move out of their homes, leaving their kids in the care of their moms.  But in my situation, I had to make the decision to leave for the proverbial greater good.  

Let’s face it:  my marriage dynamic was a fucked up situation  I simply wasn’t happy in it and I didn’t want my son to grow up thinking that the way that Jabba and I were living was normal.  I wanted – and want – The Kid to see me as a proud, happy, hard-working, productive human being.  Ideally, I would have like to have done all of these things while living under the same roof as him, but that was simply no longer realistic. Unless they are psychologically unfit or abusing the kids,the moms generally get custody of the kids, period.

The worst part of this whole mess is missing out on the everyday – day-to-day stuff.  The Kid is really interested in fishing; a passion I was and am not around to see develop in him.  We speak on the phone an average of 6 times per week, but it simply isn’t the same as having a daily presence in each other’s lives. I don’t get to see him come in from school and tell me about his day.  I don’t see his school friends.  I absolutely despise the fact that I miss out in him reading books, discovering new foods, and seeing him accomplish something that he wasn’t able to do the day or even the hour before.  When I get to see him, it seems like he’s growing by leaps and bounds.  There are times when I hardly recognize him from one photograph to the next.  I hear stories about countless dads who simply don’t want to be involved in their kid’s lives and it makes me sick.  I would give anything to have The Kid living here with me full-time.  I know that it’s all relative though.  There are some dads who live within earshot of their kids and never get to see them.  There are other like me who live  5 states away and get along with their kid fabulously but still can’t have the relationship they want.

IN OTHER NEWS:  I tried to add a couple classes to my school schedule tonight.  I have to talk to my academic adviser tomorrow to get that going.

UPDATE 1.2.14 1:13 PM:  I talked with my mom just a few hours ago, just to shore up plans for Phred’s upcoming birthday.  I informed her how The Kid had told me when we talked just after midnight in New Year’s Eve/Day that he had tried to call my parents.  Mom informed me that he made no such attempt to call; not on his phone and not on Jabba’s phone.  I’m not mad at him.  There’s no doubt in my mind that Jabba told him to tell me that, just to fuck with my head.

Also, I managed to get signed up for Winter classes finally.  I continue to move forward.

THE NEW YEAR’S REVOLUTION CONTINUES

one less thing

 

I got my financial aid refund for school. Basically I’m robbing Peter to pay Paul but it enables me to take care of some of my current financial obligations. To paraphrase Forrest Gump “one less thing to worry about”

With that dinero, I was able to get my textbooks – another thing to scratch off the list.

reflections on my 20 year reunion… 20 hours later

a lot older and a little wiser

Last night was my much-blogged-about 20 year high school reunion.  I have to say,  it far exceed my expectations.

There were no more cliques, just people.  People who despite whatever differences they may have had in the past, shared a remarkable amount of common memories.  A lot,(most of) the people I talked to were people I never spoke to or hung out with in high school.  I was amazed how many people I recognized.  the trick was to look at people’s faces.  Hair and body shapes were nopt going to be enough.  Too much time has passed.  That, and Mother Nature and Father Time have had their way with all of us. For better or for worse.

Apparently, a decision was made to NOT get name tags – to encourage people to talk to each other.  It worked. I think I spoke to more people in 6 hours last night than i did in 4 years of high school.

My quixotic hope of meeting someone at the reunion did not come to pass.  Granted, that was not the reason I went last night.  I really did go, as i said before, to put some old demons to rest.  What I found most amazing about last night was that even a person like myself, who traveled the halls of my high school in relative anonymity, was even remembered at all.  This may sound pathetic, but I even feel better now about my high school experience than I ever have. For some people, maybe that’s a reason enough to have these things.

I feel bad for the people who weren’t able to come last night; but I feel even worse for the people who chose not to come.  If a ex-teenage misanthrope like me could bury the hatchet with my past and have a great time, ANYBODY can.

Who knows?  Maybe 20 years from now, i’ll be able to bury the hatchet with the STBX.

“…and that brings back to doh….”

It has begun…

Wednesday (yesterday as of now) was my first day back at school.  It felt good being back in familiar climes once again.  As of now, I only have the 2 classes this semester.  I’m still hoping to add at least one more, but this is a good start.

Wednesday was the day that the whole “rebuild rob” officially began.  I mentioned in an earlier blog that this may be my last chance to get things right with teaching.  I plan to make the most of it.  I did very well at Wayne the last time I went there.  This time will be no different.

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