Toxic Presences…

Yeah…alien symbiote or not…that’s creepy and inappropriate.

Without a doubt, Cap is going to lose her mind on that symbiote, with Silver Age Powers. That’s a crazy gross drooly alien tongue, and it’s pretty @#$%ing clear that the symbiote is trying to be intimidating. that all falls into the category of “unacceptable.”

I’m going to be a little bit political here, which is rare. It actually is related to education, so I don’t feel all that bad about it. Please bear with me.

Lately, it seems like I can’t look at the news at all without seeing a story about someone in a position of power and influence behaving in a similar fashion. It made me feel pretty satisfied that TIME magazine chose the “Silence Breakers” as their people of the year. The fact is that its important that every person be treated with respect, and as a friend pointed out to me, we don’t get to have a “slippery slope” with sexual assault. It either exists or it doesn’t…and none of it is acceptable.

I recently had a conversation with another close friend, and I was kind of amazed that he was willing to cut some individuals some slack on the subject. I think that as a teacher, I wind up very hard line on the subject. If a teacher is being even remotely inappropriate, I don’t think that they should continue to be in their position, because of the relative power that they wield. That’s just a public school teacher…consider the power in the hands of the rich, the connected, the politically positioned. I think that it’s fair to ask people to be accountable to their actions, and to also be aware of the advantages of position.

Obviously…teaching involves children, so a high standard of responsibility is called for. I think that in the legislative branch of the United States government, maybe we should also have a high standard of accountability. Heck, possibly even in the Executive branch.

I don’t really have any control over that sort of stuff. At my level, Public School Teacher, I can only have control over the things that are in front of me. Like Superman, it’s my job to make the world in front of me just a bit better. I’m a Mandatory Reporter, which means that if I have the slightest inkling of abuse or misconduct happening to a young person, I have to report it to Children’s Services. I’ve had to do that A few times this semester, and honestly, I feel like teachers don’t speak out enough.

There are no penalties for a teacher making a report, and it can only benefit students. When teachers don’t report, it is often because they don’t want to have to report on another teacher, which disgusts me. Right now, my own Union has had an issue where harassment was suggested by its members and employees (adults to adults), and that those members and employees have been issued cease and desist letters.

There is a general policy in education that seems to discourage breaking this important silence, despite the fact that the District itself has an instructional video on it entitled “Breaking the Silence.” More often than not that silence extends to other educators, and every time that I hear about such things in the news, it is heartbreaking. When TIME made the choice to respect the Silence Breakers as a group, it made me think a great deal about this subject. I’m still thinking about it.

More than that…I’m proud to have been taking action, when the need to do it is in front of me. I’ll continue to do so. Not every battle is going to be won, or come out as we like. That doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t defend those around me who feel like they are powerless.

After all, that’s pretty much what Superman taught me to do.


The Friendly Skies…

She has really wrecked a lot of very big things this week.

I played X-Wing (the tabletop game) for the first time in ages on Saturday, and it was a very welcome reprieve from the past week. I lost as many games as I won, but really didn’t care that much, one way or the other. Being very honest, I was pretty outclassed by my opponent, so I am surprised that we traded evenly.

The action sequences in “Star Wars” were apparently heavily rooted in World War II era newsreel footage of fighter planes, which influenced my choice of content here. I didn’t really feel like drawing another spaceship or a TIE Fighter, so I kind of leaned in another direction. The propeller system of a 1940’s era plane seemed like a fun challenge to draw, and one thing led to another.

Those guys in the cockpit don’t look worried enough to me. I mean…sure, they are some kind of Air Pirates, or maybe members of a Cobra like organization determined to rule the world. I get it, they are tough and jaded. Still, looking at the final art, I feel like I should have drawn them freaking out a bit more. A mean looking Alien American lady just dropped onto their wing and ripped off a whole engine. That seems like a VERY stressful event, no matter how tough and jaded you are.

Cap, on the other hand, looks a bit bored. She has had a hell of a week, punching the head off a super robot in a tuxedo, smacking the feet off of a giant Walker vehicle, presumably destroying three starfighters, and then taking on three Venom symbiote infected dinosaurs. From that point of view, a plane from some kind of Terror Incorporated group seems like it would be a step downward. Maybe she IS bored.

It has been nice to not think about school for a solid 24 hours or so. This year has been exceedingly tough at the semester’s end, just stressful in a way that it doesn’t need to be. A day of X-wing, and unpacking the new Magic: The Gathering “Unstable” set packs was restful and useful in a way that is really pretty hard to properly define. The coming week is going to be filled with last minute deadlines, made more troubling by the fact that administration itself if getting things done at the last minute these days.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, True Believers. I’m certainly going to take advantage of another day without stress or deadlines, as the semester counts down to its final hours.

Thrash Of Symbiotes.

Frustrated with dinosaurs that have alien symbiotes. Go figure.

A pretty short post.

First off…it’s named for the current Magic: The Gathering card “Thrash of Raptors.” The card brings out a 3/3 dinosaur creature for 4 mana…but gets +2/+0 so long as you control another dinosaur. That’s pretty good, honestly.

As the week wears on, problems at school become more abstract. Today’s artwork is more metaphor than anything else, and directly related to two things:

  • That there are pretty annoying problems coming from all sides.
  • The best part of my day is playing Magic: The Gathering with students.

The current set of Magic: The Gathering features a heavy amount of dinosaurs as creatures, and they are pretty tough. I haven’t yet been successful or smart in drafting to them or playing decks based on them, but they are a Big Deal. I’ve certainly had my head handed to me by dinosaur driven decks. If you were to add Venom style symbiotes to those same dinosaurs, even a Silver Age Superhero would have to pay some attention.

That’s what’s going on here. The whole sketch is a cathartic tone poem about dealing with this week, and getting into the next. Balance on one dinosaur while kicking a second and shrugging off a third. That’s pretty much how problems and solutions are coming up, with a week and a half of school left to go.

In all fairness…Cap can handle three symbiote powered dinosaurs. Just like I can handle all of this week’s Mischegas. You should stay on top of your own stuff, True Believers…just like I’m advising my students to do.

Lasers From On High.

Seriously…she just wanted to get to the parking lot with no hassle…

TIE fighters are pretty low rent for starfighters, but at the end of a hard day, a trio of them strafing you would be pretty @#$%ing annoying. This is pretty much the metaphor for how my days have been going. Little, annoying things, that if you let them go they could do enough damage to be a Big Thing.

To be perfectly honest, TIE Fighters would be pretty rough for Cap to deal with. Sure…she can toss around spaceships, and by spaceship standards, the TIE is actually on the fragile side. The thing is, they are FAST, and very agile in flight. Cap is FAST, to Silver Age Standards of Speed, but flies poorly. She’s awkward and clumsy, so if she wanted to go ahead and punch one of those things, it would probably wind up being some kind of Mega-Chore.

Much like catching up with my students assignments, as they trickle in. Advise that a fifty point essay get done…but instead, wind up with three five point assignments to grade. Let a student know that you’ll be in during lunch to work with them…and they come by after school. There’s a fluidity to handling the current grade problems that is a lot like trying to hold water in your hands as it comes from a hose, or maybe trying to catch a TIE fighter in flight as it pokes at you with starship grade lasers.

In addition, the Fail Notices to my students remain elusive, because the Edu-Lords themselves are being elusive. Today, the notices didn’t get distributed because one of the Edu-Lords wasn’t in. Yesterday, he was off campus for a meeting. Edu-Lords are usually slippery, but this is impressive, to say the least. Pretty much, those Fail Notices need to happen tomorrow…because if they don’t, they will be too late for anyone to act on constructively to make a change about.

Realistically, though…there won’t BE much change. Despite days of admonishment, only a few students are even bothering to attempt to bring their grades up. It’s pretty discouraging, especially with the deadline of the 15th looming ever larger.

That might be why I’m using so much of the Star Wars visual lexicon to illustrate the deadline, actually. The day that “Last Jedi” premieres is the deadline date for all of this work from me, and bears on me with the same inexorable weight of a Sith Lord’s force choke, or oncoming Stormtroopers.

Walk The Line.

She seems unhappy with that AT-AT Walker.

In “Star Wars: Dark Empire” by Dark Horse Comics, a post “Return of the Jedi” Luke Skywalker first parries the laser blasts of a giant AT-AT Walker, and then brings it down with the Force.

In “Empire Strikes Back,” he scales one with a magnetic rope, cuts the armor open with his lightsabre, and then chucks a bomb inside, bringing down the Walker.

In “Vader Down,” by the modern Marvel comics series, Darth Vader handles an AT-AT with his lightsabre, and nothing else, and then brings one down using a casual gesture with the Force, and nothing else.

Obviously, that’s all impressive.

Cap, on the other hand, is smacking the living @#$% out of the foot hinges of a Walker, with a @#$% ton of Silver Age Strength and a flat, blunt, tuning fork. That’s another way to handle this kind of thing, and very much in line with my current mood.

We have started the current in class project, and productivity is slow. I have graded about two hundred late assignments, clearing out two out of five classes and bringing them up to date. The problem of missing work remains the single largest contributor to bad student grades, and students are not taking advantage of what I’m letting them have. Not only do I have a “rolling late policy,” allowing students to turn in assignments up until the “drop dead’ date…there is NO late penalty. That’s huge. Furthermore, to assist in actually get all of those assignments in, I’ve been making my time and computers available before school, during lunch, and until four o’clock after school.

I have had NO takers for that offer.

Between slow productivity on the current project, and about half of the last two weeks of assignments not submitted…I’m troubled about the students’ probable final grades. It’s frustrating, because I don’t know how to make this any more accessible or “doable.”

Like the big AT-AT Walker, district guidelines for grades and gradebook submission are pretty much on top of me. I can handle that stuff about as easily as CAP @#$%ed over that Walker, but also with about as much of a mess and collateral damage. See all that nonsense flying about, and the smoke and the just, the probable electrical fire from the leg stump? Yeah…that’s a heavy handed metaphor for my students’ current grades, if I had to actually submit grades today.

Hopefully, some serious pressure can be added in the next day or so, and I can get a decent amount of work sent in. Right now…a conservative estimate has my entire gradebook at about 320 missing assignments of real importance. Even cutting that number in half would be a pretty big deal.

In the next couple of days, I’m going to have to meet individually with each student in academic jeopardy, and pretty much personally invite them to pass. We were supposed to print out fail notices for every single student in my grade, have an assembly, and inform them of the need to get their stuff together. By we…I mean that administration said that they’d do it two weeks ago, and it hasn’t happened yet. I’m frustrated by that, because when I sit in meeting after meeting about how important it is for students to be on graduation track, but admin can’t hit “print” and hold an assembly…it smacks of hypocrisy.

A huge @#$%ing fuss, complete with the principal being overwhelmed with emotion, happens over football. We had an assembly for students who made Honor Roll, although many honer students were pretty much skipped over because the planning wasn’t done well. These are things we have done, but taking the time to keep students of graduation track…that’s where we are “dropping the ball”, to use my principal’s parlance.

Hence today’s cathartic art. Although it’s important to note that it’s not one of the Edu-Mountain’s machines bearing down of Cap, and having to be dealt with…that’s a machine from Central. That’s what grades are…they are a district issue. They just happen to be frequently ignored by my local Edu-Lords.

One more thing about the art…if she can smack the ankle assembly of an armored AT-AT Walker to @#$% in a single hit…that tuxedo wearing robot from yesterday was REALLY @#$%ed. Almost makes you feel badly for the smug, conference attending jerk, huh?

The First Wave Of The Final Push.

She looks annoyed.

We are two weeks from the end of the semester, exactly. Final grades are due on that last day, as well as my completed and submitted gradebook. For me, that’s a whole lot of time and energy sitting with a computer, making sure things are up to date, parents are notified, and that assignments are completed if possible. I tend to stay ahead of it, so that’s no real trouble…but the actual process is time consuming. Often, students wait until the exact last possible second to submit work for their grades, and expect miracles.

None of that is what has Cap, and to a lesser extent me, annoyed.

Today is the first day of the final project of the semester. It’s the kind of project that I didn’t want to do, with Oral Presentations last week. My co-teacher and other Tenth Grade Teachers wanted to do it, so I put together the concept, and another Tenth Grade Teacher assembled the materials. This is the first day, including putting the students into groups, and then using those groups to get the work done.

My co-teacher, though…along with a whole lot of other teachers, won’t be here. They will all be at some fancy training in Anaheim.

That’s pretty frustrating. I didn’t really want to do the project in the first place, and now I get to start it all by my lonesome, as it were. It’s not a super huge thing, but if I hadn’t been considering everyone else in writing the lesson plan, I would have written something else entirely.

Cap, unlike me, can take out her frustration on the evil robots wearing tuxedos around her. Good for her.

Before you ask…she can’t suddenly shoot energy from her hands, or use the Force. That’s just straight up punching. Which is also generally rough on robots, especially with Silver Age Alien American Super Strength.

This week is going to be frustrating, that’s the core of the whole thing. I’ll have the underlying task of grading late work which is going to be a constant source of crankiness. I’m imagining that there will be some big time, late distractions from other adults, which will be frustrating as well. It would be nice if I could just smack a robot once in a while, but I will settle for the outlet of drawing.

Back At The Fortress Of Togetherness…

Sometimes, you just need to go home, and get back to basics.

This post is pretty much non fiction, in all respects. It has been a tough week, in little ways. The little things are ALWAYS the things that get under your skin the most, I think. I’m pretty envious of the people I know that can just sort of let those things roll over them, and not be annoyed or upset about it.

I was pretty cranky when I got home on Thursday. Little stuff like traffic, paperwork, and work related issues that were truly minor. I had noticed that Flopping Time Pony, who is one of the hardest working ponies here at the fortress of Togetherness, was starting to have a problem in its back seam. That’s the seam that they pull tight, and tie off, to finish your pony at Build-a-Bear Workshop, after you have stuffed it and put the heart inside. It’s not a major problem, because that seam is the last seam closed, and has the least stitches. Still…I had noticed that the seam was having trouble on Wednesday, and kind of had it at the back of my head.

When I cam in, cranky, I just made a beeline to my sewing kit. Found the right color of thread, set up a needle, and got to work. It took maybe ten minutes to do the very simple job, making the seam as good as new. More importantly…focusing on a simple task like that really took my mind off of all the little tings that were bugging me.

Pretty satisfied by that, I got some detergent and supplies, and decided to clean up that hardworking pony. With a tough day to day job, ponies can pick up a lot of schmutz. With that done, the pony was sent for an adventure in the dryer, and came out looking much happier for the whole thing.

I got some valuable insight out of it. Sometimes, the way to deal with small things that are annoying you is to just do a different small thing, that won’t annoy you. Something that generates just a small bit of satisfaction. I’m amazed at how often I don’t realize this fact.

At that point, Flopping Time Pony and I sat down to do the art I posted today. It was intended for the Friday post, but computer issues made that problematic. Granted…I hypothetically could have taken the file to one of any number of other computers, and got it done. That was always an option. Instead, I chose to resolve the issue with that computer, and not worry about a self imposed timeline.

That turned out to be a good choice. Quality of life improved.

That’s really what this post is about, I guess. About the value of quiet time, to yourself. It’s also about the value of making your own decisions about how to spend your time. At school, you DEFINITELY don’t have that. There are deadlines constantly, there are bells that tell you where to go and when to do so, there are numerous meetings. Other teachers have things that they want you to do, and my two hundred students often have things that they NEED to have attention toward. Leaving the classroom to just even go to the restroom can be a tightly scheduled event, because it needs to be when you don’t have a class, and is then on a six minute time window.

So spending time making a minor repair to a pony…that’s something entirely by my choice. There’s no interruptions, no demands, and at the end…something is done. It helps me understand why one of my closest friends likes to make sure that her place is clean and tidy. Besides making things look nice, at the end of it, you’ve achieved something, and there are no real external demands. It just is what it is.

I think we could all use a bit more of that in our lives. I know I can.