Day 15 Wednesday June 16, 2010: Kodachrome


Today is Wednesday, June 16, 2010 and Day 15 of my time left at the Mont (yeah, I know the reality—just wondering if the administration lies to itself, too) and 8 school days left in the year. Packing more stuff: hauled home a cabinet the students had painted with Northwest Coast Indian art over the years; it had been a tradition of the seniors to add sections to it. Odd, thought I’d feel more emotional about it. Instead, I was relieved that it survived the year unvandalized. Today’s load will be the books I used for references and for student research, which lived in the cabinet. I’d even built an extension cord into the cabinet because every time a cleaning crew came in—like once a year—my cord would get stolen. So, with the cabinet moved home, I’m jury-rigging my electricity set-up for today’s last day of notes and lecture.


It’s hard to fight the student burn-out, or for that matter, teacher burn-out. Everyone senses the change to come and folks just want it over with. I guess it’s like going through a breakup, and knowing you have to get through that last weekend together. The posters of my superheroes like Green Arrow and Wolverine will stay up for a bit longer, when they’ll be put away for what might be a very long time. I hate teaching in a barren, lifeless room.


One sign that it’s over: the yearbook is out. Seniors run around, getting them signed. The lower classmen look through them, looking for pictures of themselves. So do the adults. (My only picture is on the faculty page, my I.D. picture, doing my Pericles impression, with my helm tilted back.)  There’s always surprises in the yearbook. This one was no exception.


On page 112, under the title, “Did You Know?” was the following paragraph: “On the *home* front, Superintendent Ramon Cortines initiated a *Reconstitution* of Fremont, resulting in the end of current SLCs and the implementation of a new disciplinary code and dress code. Also many of our beloved teachers either were dismissed or left the *school* because they do not agree with the *new* plans. Community meetings were established to keep parents and the rest of the community informed of changes and have their voices heard. Much of the new changes for next year are still unclear, worrying teachers, students and parents.”


This is the day I really see the kids moved by lecture. Yeah, the music lesson on Vietnam does it, as does the Holocaust. This one strikes them, leaves them upbeat, which is one of the best things I can ever do as a teacher. Isn’t that what my subject area ought to be about? Not just a recitation of facts and dates, but a story; every story has a theme, and mine has always been one of hope and justice. I talk about the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, the Revolutions of 1989 and the Fall of the Berlin Wall—and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The kids hear about the fall of the Wall, while U2 plays in the background, and hear about the piece of the Berlin Wall each Fremont teacher was given (back when Teacher Appreciation Day was more than a slogan around here) and how my mom held that piece of the Wall in her hands. The Scorpions’ “Wind of Change” plays as I talk about the attempted coup against Gorbachev and they drink in his words: “I do not pretend to know the absolute truth.  We have to search for it together.” They look at the flags around the room and notice the blue and yellow flag of the Ukraine hanging over the window behind my desk. They remember my grandfather fought for independence, and while he did not live to see it, my father got to see that flag raised up at a Winter Olympic Games. A hell of a way to end the note-taking of the year. Always leave them with hope.


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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.


    August 2010



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