Elvis MODOK, Metal Messiahs, and Coca-Cola.

Not as random as you might think.

Not as random as you might think.

For the past two days in class, I have tried to refocus my students on the thing that actually brings me to school, and makes the job rewarding to a degree. I have more books, actual books, not comics, than can easily be counted. On the subject of comics, that number can only be considered alarming. The written word, print media…it is kind of on its way out, at least with young people, in favor of multimedia and so forth. I want to convey to them the love of print media, of excellent literature, that I have. Partially, because it will help them in school, provide motivation to read, blah, blah, blah.

Partially because it’s just great. Exposing young people to the work of Edgar Allen Poe for the first time, reading it aloud while they freak out…it’s uplifting. Having kids tell you that they didn’t realize that teachers even HAD books that didn’t suck. Watching the librarian be besieged by requests for 19th century horror, and not know why…excellent.

The art above is more about my love of literature than the class content, though. One of my favorite books is by a Jewish Country and Western Singer named Kinky Friedman. It is a mystery novel, about a Jewish Country and Western Singer named Kinky Friedman who needs to locate a missing film about Elvis impersonators while simultaneously unraveling the disappearance of his ex, Uptown Judy, with the help of his ex, Downtown Judy. The novel flows like you think it would from that description, Friedman’s prose flowing almost lyrically. The book is called “Elvis, Jesus, and Coca-Cola,” and it is brilliant. I have started re-reading it, in an effort to jumpstart my hopes for instilling the same love in my students.

That’s what the art is about. Sort of. Our hero, of course a surprisingly Heavy Metal Jesus, Elvis MODOK, and a 1950’s Coca-Cola pin up girl. It was a lot to put together, in homage of that most excellent book.

By now, as I write this, I have done the Poe schtick with my students. Almost all of them. It was fun, kind of huge, and worth the past two days of my employment.

Other parts of those two days…not so much. All of our school’s teachers were given an elective, deceptively titled “Career Awareness.” Today, in a meeting, one of the Darths came in to explain that we needed to hand out a syllabus for that course. I raised my hand, Academic integrity keeping my voice from being silent.

“You know that we have been teaching that course for five weeks now, with no teachers edition, materials, or syllabus.”

The reply, “Yeah…I really fumbled the ball on that. It’s unforgivable. Let’s just try to forgive it though, and move forward.”

“Um…no. I can’t move forward…I still don’t have a curriculum.”

There was a look of surprise, and then one that said I should be impressed. “Oh…well, we finally ordered the materials and curriculum. They will be here next week.”

“You mean five weeks late. After I’m supposed to hand out the syllabus for the class in two days. What about my academic integrity?”

Look of discomfort follows that, and some more apology words. “Well…we hear you. You’re right of course…we just have to do our best to move on now that things will be here and in place. For the kids.”

“Ma’am…if I had kids, I wouldn’t tolerate their school failing to have a curriculum for five weeks.”

At that point, they left. Still, in the Salvador Dali painting I call a school, another individual came to talk to me as I was signing out. It was the new psychiatric social worker. He was very excited to tell me that now, all of the paperwork and procedures were in place, so that they could start providing services to students as soon as next week.

My stern response was, “You mean six weeks after I informed you of two students in crisis? Am I supposed to be excited about this?”

Excuses ensued, which fell on my deaf, non pointed ears. It went on for longer than was necessary, or I was comfortable with. I was most mystified at how clean shaven the man was…since you need to look in a mirror to shave. If I had someone tell me, to my face, that paperwork and bureaucracy had made me fail a student in crisis…I’d be upset. Upset enough that looking in the mirror closely enough to achieve that shave would probably be impossible. I would at least stop smiling, and being excited about meetings and forms. Then again, that’s not my job. My job is to teach that love of literature I was speaking about earlier.

The hope is that if I can keep my class engaging and academically busy enough, my students won’t have problems, and won’t need these seemingly absentee support services. I think the heart of my disappointment on that front is that I have never been at a school that even pretended to offer those services, or that kind of support. Much like telling a kid “We’re going to Disneyland!” I got hopeful. When the trip doesn’t happen, you can only be let down.

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