Day 7 Thursday June 24, 2010: My Old School

 

Today is Thursday, June 24, 2010 and Day 7 of my time left at the Mont. Actually, since school ends tomorrow, I should more properly call it Day 2. We’re winding down. Sometimes, time seems to drag. Other times, it speeds up, like a taped highlight of a football player running in a pass, the Flash (pick any of them, Jay Garrick, Barry Allen,  Wally West, the current Flash, or Bart Allen) going by in a blur.

 

But it is, almost, over. Today is a day to gather signatures and make goodbyes, because some of us will skip tomorrow and some of us want to just get out the door and meet the future. More and more of us are interviewing, or already have jobs. Others are asking, “See if that school has any openings in (insert subject).” We’re looking out for each other. It has been deeply moving to see this faculty, by a twist of fate, come together more as forces pull us our separate ways. Today, it is an inspiration to be a Pathfinder.

 

You may have noticed I recycle a lot of classic rock song titles for the titles of this arrows I shoot. Some might call them the rocks I throw. I think I read too much Harlan Ellison in my formative years. Yeah, Juan and Jasmine let me know in no uncertain terms I’m not allowed to reference any more songs prior to 1989. Too bad—product of my times. Heh. Here’s some of the titles for this piece that didn’t make the cut:

 

“Movin’ On”, Bad Company

“Find the Cost of Freedom”, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

“Go Your Own Way”, Fleetwood Mac

“Fire and Rain”, James Taylor

“Carry On Wayward Son”, Kansas

“Silent Running”, Mike & the Mechanics

“Long May You Run”, the Stills-Young Band

“Slip Slidin’ Away”, Paul Simon

“Ridin’ the Storm Out”, REO Speedwagon

“Don’t You (Forget About Me)”, Simple Minds

“Alive and Kicking”, Simple Minds

 

Each would have been selected for a specific purpose, whether it be title, a piece of the lyrics, mood; none of the titles were chosen by chance. Nor were the references to movies, TV shows, books or comics. It’s pretty much how I orchestrate my lessons: what we’re covering, quotes(s) for the day, primary sources, pictures, background music. Well, Mr. Balderas, I guess that won’t be happening at the Mont anymore. May you enjoy the house you built. Instead of a steely gaze, when you walk through the halls, why don’t you try looking those people in the eye and really see what you’ve done here?

 

And, as I said, I carefully choose my other references. Some would say I haven’t grown up. I surround myself with comic books and think of superheroes. But there’s a lot of wisdom and life-lessons to be gleaned from the four-color format. Last night, I dug out my copy of Marvel’s “Civil Wars: The Confession” to reread a section. For the comic book-challenged, Captain America and Iron Man/Tony Stark (you ought to know who he is, because of the movies) had been members of the Avengers together. However, a catastrophic mistake by young heroes cost 600 innocent civilians their lives. The superhero world splits because Iron Man feels all heroes should be registered and trained, while Captain America feels that would endanger loved ones, hindering what they do. What ensues is a civil war, until Cap surrenders when he sees the destruction being wrought on the very people he wants to protect. The two former friends confront each other in Cap’s cell:

 

“Do you actually think the fact that you know how to program a computer makes you more of a human being than me? That I'm out of touch because I don't know what you know? I know what freedom is. I know what it feels like to fight for it and I know what it costs to have it. You know compromise.” Captain America to Tony Stark, “Civil War: The Confession”

 

Many of us have disagreed in these past six months. We’ve disagreed on policy, on the philosophy of what we do, on goals and tactics. But, no matter what, we agreed it was ultimately about the kids. They were—no, are—the ones who matter in this.

 

We did our jobs. We did behave with honor, as was pointed out in an email to me. The shame I have felt at times through this ordeal… I can’t feel it now. As I write this, listening to “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys,” I have seniors coming to me, talking about what they’ve learned from me. We’re finishing each other’s thoughts. And I look around the barren room, thinking about what they’ll carry away from here. Leon Trotsky once wrote, “We die only when we fail to take root in others.” Those former students coming to me carry ideas we taught them. No pacing plan, no RTI, no mandates from the District, will take away that these students are going to be free thinkers.

 

This is what you did. Be proud of it.

 
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    Chuck Olynyk is a Social Studies teacher who saw the effects of reconstitution upon John C. Fremont High in Los Angeles. These are reposting of his original blogs from the Save Fremont website.

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