It is time.
It is time to start sharing stories. Write essays.
In my first book, I take the reader up to the beginning of my time at Kilarney High School (not the school’s real name; also, some of the stories may not have happened at the specific high school I cite; gotta watch the triggering). The book, CONDUCTING MY LIFE, is very good. Highly recommend it as do many other people.
Now, I am going to start to write some short essays and then, I may compile them and make a “book two.”
Recap the beginning of my time at Kilarney High School, and please do consider the buying CONDUCTING MY LIFE.
My first year at Kilarney High School, I succeeded a teacher who the students loved, but not so much loved by the adults. Which is probably why the students loved her so much.
Following a successful interview, June 17, 2008, the Kilarney High School Principal took me, my family, (my wife, Diana; son who was 14 at the time; daughter who was 12 at the time) on a tour of the campus. A campus that was being renovated. On the band room door, there were messages taped to the door “warning” the teacher’s successor that whomever takes the job will have a rough time. Students expressing how much they love Ms. T.
The boosters’ president (cop / probation officer; important to know what he did for a living; READ “CONDUCTING MY LIFE” and you will learn more) was with us. I was shocked that these messages would still be taped to the door, days following graduation. My family was a little scared of what was going to happen to “dad.”
We go in the band room. Look around the OLD band room. Band room door unlocks. And there she is … the band director I would be following.
I walk across the band room. Offer my hand. She shakes it. Then, she immediately goes into the band room office and calmly closes the door. The boosters’ president leaves us to go in office and we awkwardly walk out of the band room with 14-year-old PJ saying, “Well, that was awkward.” It was.
Again, you can read more details about how the boosters president harassing me the entire year and, frankly, throughout the entire nine years I was at Kilarney High School. He is a hurting man. Hurting people hurt people and therefore, I was his target. AWFUL EXPERIENCE WITH THAT SAD MAN! Awful.
The first four years were up and down – like every job!
But the downs were extremely rare in number – and … extremely hurtful in quality.
Here are two things I remember from the first four years…
Kilarney High School is in the East Bay Area of California. It’s in the “echo chamber” of Berkeley, California. About thirty minutes east of Berkeley. So, the city tends to have a “liberal flavor” to it.
One of the many things I enjoy about being a music teacher is how music, in fact, does bring all sorts of people together. Music is really the conduit for human beings. You see students of every color and gender working together to bring a “soul” alive. The same heterogeneous group of people playing music together in the band room, sit in their tribes during the lunch hour.
There are two stories from Kilarney High School that share commonality.
We had zero period jazz band. Zero period met around 6:45am. Terrible time for a high school student to attend school. Too flippin’ early. Well, as my students will tell you, I am a stickler for time. EARLY IS ON TIME. ON TIME IS LATE. LATE IS RUDE. Time is COLOR BLIND. GENDER BLIND… blah blah blah… All of us have twenty-four hours in a day. All of us follow the same clock.
I had an African American student. Freshman. He had a tendency to be late several times a week. Not a month. A WEEK!
So, after several weeks of him just nonchalantly walking into the classroom, I had had it!! I don’t mind getting on the students in front of their peers. WHY? Because, I want all them to learn from the mistake. I know: PRAISE IN PUBLIC. PUNISH IN PRIVATE. How’s that working out with all the children who are suffering from depression? Suicidal? On and on….
We should prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child.
Well, he didn’t like being called out in front of the students.
The next day… sure enough… his mother at 6:30am wants to inform me the struggles she has a single-African American-mother and that me, a white man (she pointed that out) had no idea what it was like to be her.
Had it. I defended myself. Here I am, the son of an alcoholic / welfare single-white mother / brother of two sisters / father who barely paid child support and she had the nerve to call me “racist” because I was “picking” on her son.
I could see this was gonna be a “Donny-brook.” Asked her to come into my office and we went at it.
“You are racist. The only reason you pick on my son is because he is black.”
DAAAAAAMN IT! You (the mom) had to go there.
“Mam…you have no idea who you are talking to. I have not one ounce of racism in my body. I have had all sorts of minority students. One of my favorites was drum major for me and now he is special forces for the United State Army. How dare you accuse me of being racist!” The “conversation” (more like an ass chewing from the mom) went on a little longer. Then, she left upset. But that was it. Needless-to-say, she took her son out of jazz band.
Then, I had another student who would not attend extra rehearsals / football games.
One Saturday rehearsal in September (yes… we had 8am-4pm Saturday rehearsals) I asked the band, “Where is soandso?”
A student raises her hand, “She isn’t going to go to anything extra for the class.”
That following Monday, I receive a ‘heated’ phone call from the student’s mom chastising me for asking the students where her daughter was.
This mom sets up an appointment with me / her daughter / assistant principal.
The mom was ready for a fight.
To make a long story short, in front of her daughter, “I think you are a racist bully.”
I was shocked that my assistant principal said nothing to the mom. NOTHING. I thought the assistant principal would have at least asked the daughter to step outside or come to my defense with something like, “Mrs. _______. I cannot have you accuse one of our teachers as a racist bully, especially in front of your daughter.”
Nope. NOTHING! The assistant principal just listened to the mom and her daughter get their “pound of flesh.” I think by this time, the Kilarney administration was hoping that all these “cuts” would lead to me leaving.
So, the mom had free reign to just nail me.
That mom should have been admonished and told to leave the office until she was ready to discuss the situation.
Come to find out several months following the mom filing a formal complaint that I was harassing her daughter, the mom had issues. I will not go into the “findings” of those issues, but SHE DEFINITELY HAD ISSUES!
Every day in our nation, teachers are attacked. Not every teacher is attacked every day… No… Every day there is a teacher being accused of some unprofessional conduct without due process. When we found out the mom had issues, the complaint did not leave my file. That is the type of support teachers are receiving today – little to no support.
Difficult to believe that I am still teaching some 10 years after the incidents I shared with you (in weeks to follow, there will be more to share with you). Those two moms were terribly mean. I am sure part of the reason they were so mean is because they were hurting. Life was unkind to them and me being the “enemy” just by my gender and being Caucasian was a good target for them to answer life’s unkindness.
One thing I have learned is, again, teachers are going to be hurt. We hurt the ones we love, and teachers are easy targets.
I would ask all parents / students to remember teachers are humans, just like you. Give them the same benefit of the doubt you would like to have. Parents sit next to your child’s teacher. Show you support the teacher. If your son / daughter is in high school, in less than four years, your son / daughter will not have a parent at the meeting with their boss to discuss issues at work. TEACH YOUR CHILD TO DEAL WITH THEIR BUSINESS and you (the parent) will be there when the child has spoken to the teacher. Until the child speaks to the teacher, PARENTS BACK OFF! Seriously – for the health of your child’s growth – BACK OFF!!
Parents document the “process.” For example: On August 5, 2019 – my son met with Mr. Everts and this is what my child heard and requested from Mr. Everts. On September 5, 2019 – my son gave us an update on the situation with Mr. Everts… and … stick to the facts. GET THE EMOTIONS OUT OF THE WAY OF THE FACTS. Parents are going through their “mid-life” crisis / hormones and they tend to be as emotional as their teenagers!
More times than not, the teacher wants the same thing you do: THE BEST FOR YOUR CHILD. You calling the teacher names, is not the be THE BEST FOR YOUR CHILD. You assuming the teacher is a moron / asshole (two names I have been called), is not THE BEST FOR YOUR CHILD.
Hope my first of what I hope is a series of “essays” will help you be a better student / child / and build a better relationship with the child’s teacher. WE ALL WANT THE BEST FOR OUR CHILDREN / STUDENTS. And sometimes, we will make mistakes and get in the way of that “best for our children / students.”