Skip to main content

36 degrees

Very cold start in New Orleans this morning. Very grey.

It rained yesterday. I made the best of it. The students were anxious and ready to leave as soon as they arrived. Conflicting directions from the administrators didn't help the mood of anyone, as it made our morning routine a lot of hurry-up-and-wait.

I fought hard for the students to be given a break. They tested for four days straight, from 8:30 to 4:00, following up with tutoring until 5. I told them friday would be a day of activity and reflection. Then I was told there was just one more section of the test they would need to take...

First, I objected because I had already told them we were finished. I did this in front of the class. I did it on purpose, because I knew I wasn't going to win, and I knew this new turn of events was going to damage their trust in me as their teacher. Secondly, I objected because another student advocate, the dean, had planned a high school vist for Friday morning until 10:00. Apparently, these administrators hadn't talked to each other.

Well, I was still called a liar. I did succeed in getting this last test pushed back so we could attend the high school visit, but then we were left in limbo for an hour and a 1/2 and the visit was canceled.

Toward the end, with 30 min. remaining, we broke out some games- heart beat and pulse- which always boost morale. It was student led, which always makes me feel good. We took our tests, and then it was on to fly high friday, which is what we call our half day of classes, followed by a school culture building activity. Sometimes the classes act together and sometimes we break off. The Alpha Kings (a self moniker for the 8th grade boys, which sounds more like a gang than an academic fraternity) wanted to play football in the rain. I let them. Even played with them, and no one got hurt.

I was satisfied when one student said, "Man, we do everything- car wash, christmas chicken dinner, now football in the rain!" And I expected some repirmand from the principal, as we sat musty and excited during the 2nd quarter awards ceremony for the last hour of the day.

When it was my turn to go up, the Alpha Kings cheered. Not sure for what- we had no A or B honor roll!! I did give three best improved awards.

The Alpha Kings are a complex experiment that is a little out of my hands. I preached, you are your brother's keeper from the very begining, and fiercely individulistic from a grab what you can culture, they rebeled at that notion of accountability. Through meditation (every morning no matter what) a class chant, and class missions, like a peace walk and a car wash, they have become one. There is very little bullying and only the top alphas really get into it, and I'm glad to say that we've had no major infractions, though we appear wooly. We had one fight this year, which was a reactionary when one student thought another spit on him.

I'm also proud of their collaboration and inventiveness. The Alpha Kings have sayings, like the "Be the anvil." They have 2 daps (one I know, the other is secret), a very annoying slow clap, a particular way of standing in a straight line (also very annoying), and a game they invented called Wolves, in which they howl each other's names.

They think they're pretty elite, but how elite can they be when their mediocre students and athletes? We're going to talk about that.


Popular posts from this blog

We Are The Ones Who Can Die

This is me hunting hogs with a semi-automatic weapon. This was a past life( about 8 years ago.)

A lot can change in 8 years.

I grew up around guns. I received my first when I was 10 years old. I went to a high school with a shooting range in the basement, for the high school competitive rifle team. My dad, a career Marine, gave thorough instruction, you better believe. And for most of my life I could take them or leave them. I wasn't into guns like a lot of my friends, but I knew how to shoulder a carbine so the shell didn't eject and hit me in the eye.

That was in Pennsylvania. New Orleans was a completely different scene and the reality of gun violence really hit home (sometimes too literally). I have friends who have been shot in street violence and in combat zones. I have been threatened with a weapon and I have loaded guns with a notion of self defense.

And I used to believe that it was my right to do so.

But today I'm sad and I want to touch that sadness. I lost my …

The Transformation of Ceremony

Ordination Day

I want to say something about the transformational aspect of a ceremony. Like wine to blood, from person to priest, practice enlightenment as transmogrification. Like cucumbers to pickles, surprise! 
I underestimated the ceremony. After pursuing ordination for nine years I had visualized it into nothing. Having junior monks pass me by, then disrobe, then put the robe back on before I even got to wear it once lent a sobering perspective. Imagination dispensed. I sat and stitched and lived practice in a way where oryoki wasn't a treat, Zazen wasn't something I could talk about, and robes started to have gravity- they were not without weight. 
And I think that's the first element of my ceremony: a period of discernment and someone to discern with. In the case of ordination, my teacher, our tanto, and other priests served as mirrors and sounding boards for these two questions: Why do I want to be a priest and what is a priest? It was about as clear as wine tran…

Boredom and Buddhism

To say I feel bored feels disrespectful. How could that be? I have a three month old daughter, I'm training for a demanding job in the temple, I'm a wilderness medic responding to incidents every 4 days or so, and I'm sewing my priest robes for ordination. And I have this sense of disinterest.

I have a few theories as to why I feel bored. One could be the natural come down from having the baby and becoming stable in our schedule. Another come down plays out in the adrenaline crash after responding to a medical emergency or the general up keep work I do at the temple when compared to fixing something crucial to operations. When I hear there's a fire in the area I'm pretty excited to be mobilized for stay and defend duty. I feel pretty guilty about that, too.

So I read Beyond Boredom and Depression by Ajahn Jagaro and I was reminded to be careful about looking outward by this passage:

So what is boredom? It is a subjective experience that occurs when the mind is not i…