Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Every day when I drive to work (I unfortunately haven't been riding my bike lately for a number of excuses) I pass an amazing amount of dead animals. I pass everything from cats and dogs to raccoons and birds; I even encounter the occasional snake or rooster.

When I'm on my bike, I get a close-up view of some of these poor animals, but from my car I don't see much. But for the last few days I've been passing this large raccoon. He lays next to the median wall in a supine position and I swear his paws look as if they are in a praying position. The first time I saw it I didn't think much of it, but with each pass, I start to think more and more about it.

I've started to feel bad for the little guy, I wonder if anyone else sees him, and then I wonder if maybe he's some sort of sign I'm supposed to see. I don't really know.

So, last week I had a substitute, I took a Daren day. After a nice peaceful weekend, I returned to my classroom with some really nice little surprises. On my desk was a glowing note from the sub saying how great my plans were and how wonderful the kids were. I thought to myself, "Cool, class can go on without me."

I Then walked around the classroom and found some notes that were left for me. On about 8 desks someone had decided to use a sharpie marker and write f--- Zoo-. This was next to a barrage of a number of other homophobic and racist remarks. I walked out of the classroom to catch my breath and found an empty bottle of peppermint schnapps on my desk. So I grabbed it and showed it to my principal. He looked at it and kind of laughed, then handed me the graffiti remover with a joke and said he didn't do it.

As I cleaned the desks, I thought to myself, I know alt ed teachers are supposed to expect these kinds of things and not take them personally. But damn if that isn't hard. I became extremely angry, then I realized I had no choice but to make it through the day, so I put on my best teacher face and tried to wash it from my mind as I washed it from the desks. I mentioned it in class, but of course couldn't make it a big deal, because it would then become a big deal. I did my best Buddhist impression and tried to take the suffering as something that I would have to overcome.

I am partially telling this story to vent my frustration with the students and the principal, and partially to share how difficult it can be to work with troubled youth. I think that there is also a big piece of me that has a huge difficulty coming to work when I know that I wont be there next year, and when things like this happen, it just makes it that much harder to continue but easier to know that I am leaving.

I now have this strange sympathy for that supine raccoon, and how he must have felt, and maybe how he still feels.

Ugh, that seems extremely dark, let me change the metaphor a little bit. Sometimes we forget how fast traffic is moving on the freeway and how deadly it really can be--especially to raccoons.

Another interesting sign of the times. Two girls in a little town south of Watsonville that I drive through were putting on a car wash to pay for a family funeral. You don't see that every day.

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