Say What Now?!

Therapy Clown is in charge, because this has been a tough week!

Honestly, it has been.

Going to the meeting on the morning after my friend passed away was tough. the principal had called the meeting, but honestly…he didn’t seem all that prepared for it. There was a “crisis team” from the district on hand, but an actual plan for dealing with the information, to staff or students, wasn’t really in place or articulated.

We were advised to “take care of each other” and concentrate on “just getting through the day.” Advice was given about eating, and drinking enough water, and the offer was made that if we were struggling and needed coverage, we could ask for that assistance. It was fairly generic advice, and didn’t deal with the elephant in the room. That proverbial elephant was simple: what do we tell the kids?

I would have presumed that there was some sort of statement, or guidelines about statements ready to go. That’s what I would have done, but I’m a teacher, not a principal. In light of that, my gut instinct here is obviously wrong. There was no “ready to go” statement.

Instead, midway through the meeting, the idea that a statement should exist seemed to dawn on our current leader. He explained that there would be one, in the near future, by period two or three. That seemed okay, on its face, except on the way to the meeting, around three kids had already asked me if the news was true or not. In today’s world, we just can’t control the flow of information. As a result, the idea became that we should basically stay as quiet as possible, until the “official” release of news.

I would have been fine with that, if the “official release” of news had been planned for homeroom, not period two. if it had seemed like there was any kind of plan in place.

As it played out, things came to a head by the time I returned to class. At homeroom…pretty much everyone knew, and I did my best to console the students. Heck…a good number of them offered me a helping hand for a moment, which really was the whole “people I could lean on” part. I was straight with them, and told them what i knew, which wasn’t that much.

More importantly…that’s the way that it should have been played in the morning meaning. Be straight, and advise the same. Have a statement ready, one that was from the heart. when the statement came through, a few hours later, it was a paragraph, with some suggested instructions for class activities. A single paragraph.

I chose to speak from the heart instead, and then push forward. The kids respected that, and more than one stopped by to share their feelings later. I’m not that great at that part, but the important thing is to be the adult that they need, in the moment. To listen, and to be there…which can be tough.

I was pretty confused by the lack of preparation, which informed the art for the day. It was a quick sketch, because I’m barely ahead right now.

Thanks for reading, True Believers.

Advertisements

Dream Countries and Brief Lives.

Seriously, who is going to clean up that dream vortex, Daniel? Inconsiderate.

There is a whole lot going on with this post, and the art. I’m going to start with the comics related content, and then move on to the school related piece. Bear with me.

Comics-wise, there is a project going on at DC Comics called “Dark Knights: Metal.” It’s “metal” in the sense of “heavy metal”, complete with old school metal music fonts and trade dress like concert t-shirts. On the last page of issue No. 1, Daniel the Sandman (Dream of the Endless) shows up in a “big reveal” to give Batman some pretty @#$% news. We didn’t get the news yet, that will be in Metal No. 2 (presumably), which is on stands, TODAY. Hence, why I wanted to reference the mainstream DC appearance of the typically Vertigo character, Dream.

In terms of the story for “Metal”…I like it, in spite of itself. I’m not a big fan of the writer, Scott Snyder. In fact, I frequently refer to him as overrated, and his work on Batman has been derivative at best. “Metal” is his attempt to write like Grant Morrison, which does not succeed at that attempt…not really at all. However, along the way it morphs into its own random, hard to grasp, over the top nonsense thing that is in fact pretty entertaining, if you don’t try to look at it too hard, or with any kind of scrutiny. It gains an unintended momentum of FUN, which has been very absent from much of DC Comics’ publications for a while, and from Batman in particular for a long time.

As a result of the unexpected liking here, I wanted to do some reference to that last page reveal. The problem that I had was that I had no important information for Daniel to be revealing to Cap. Partially, that’s because of the “creative process” used for Adequacy. Things have to actually happen, that are then turned into some sort of heavy handed metaphor using the lens of superhero comics. Another contributor was that in order for Dream to have any kind of information, it would have to be through either dreams (because that’s his thing) or one of the other Endless. So the idea sat, until yesterday.

And here is where it connects to school, and becomes really quite sad and terrible, True Believers.

Monday night I got a late night call from a colleague, which is pretty unusual. I picked it up, thinking that it had to be important. When I picked it up, the first words that my friend said were, “I have terrible news.” That’s never a good start.

She went on to tell me that my educational aide from my first year at the Edu-Mountain, a very kind woman, an excellent educator, and fantastic person, had very suddenly passed away. The details of it are still very hazy, but she died in her home, and hopefully peacefully.

I was pretty upset about it, and still am.

We talked pretty much every day, while she did supervision, even though she wasn’t assigned to my class any longer. We shared concerns about students that we had mentored, and joked around. Just last week I walked with her to the parking lot, as we left, and we kidded each other about pretty much nothing. You know, like friends do.

Things like this happen. It’s tragic and terrible, but its a part of life. Today was about pretty much making that something that the students could actually understand, while also not magnifying it into the kind of emotional “sturm und drang” that can cripple large numbers of teenagers. It was about tabling my anger at the universe for taking away my friend, and being steady for my students. That was tough.

Of course, Administration had meetings, and memos, and so forth. There were Crisis Teams. Counselors from off campus. I’ll get into more detail about that tomorrow, for sure.

In terms of the art, I wanted Daniel to come with this bad news, and have this big ol’ abstract dream vortex that he just kind of leaves in Cap’s fortress. That’s how these kind of events happen, after all. They are big, and disrupt our lives, and arrive unexpectedly. They come in as a Big Deal, and leave a Big Mess behind. Most importantly though, they are of huge importance, and happen to ordinary people.

We forget that. I forget that.

In our modern world, there’s a whole lot wrong…there are constantly Big Causes to be worried about, to be angry about, to be concerned about. There are always Important People doing Important Things, or passing away and causing huge grief. There are Important Things to be Active about, and to go Do Something about. All those capital letters.

In reality…everyone is important. My friend was important, in a very large way, in the lives that she touched upon. Her passing away is at least as Big an Event as anything else, and certainly could warrant the Sandman himself bringing the news. I’m not so sure who has to clean up the vortex of bad dreams such news causes…I guess we all have to do that ourselves.

The World, my students, and myself, are that much poorer for her loss.

Be excellent to each other, True Believers.

From The Stars…Pure JoJonium.

They are pointing to help you!

Right now, the school’s official “Anime Club’ has its paperwork sitting on my desk. they need to get it in by the eighteenth of September, and I have filled out my part as the advisor. I even included plans, like Movie Nights and Cosplay Days, and am eagerly awaiting the student who wanted it to exist to return, to finish the paperwork.

As a result, Anime and Manga are both on my mind.

About a year ago, a close friend introduced me to a manga called “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.” It’s insane, and straight up GENIUS, and Jotaro (the third Jojo, from the series entitled “Stardust Crusaders”) is in the foreground of today’s art, pointing and generally suggesting that he is going to bring the @#$#%ing thunder.

Let me read you in on the basics of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, a thing that I think is fantastic, and if I can, I will introduce to my emerging anime/manga enthusiasts at school. It’s Epic Level comics madness, True Believers. It’s importnat to bear in mind that outside of the United States, the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure manga has over 100 million copies in print, making it one of the best-selling manga series in history, and has spawned a large media franchise that includes several novelizations and video games, action figures, a jewelry line, and even snack foods. Snack Foods, people…snack foods.

“JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure” tells the story of the Joestar family, a family whose various members discover they are destined to take down supernatural foes using unique powers that they possess. The manga is split up into EIGHT unique parts, each following the story of one member of the Joestar family, who inevitably has a name that can be abbreviated to the titular “JoJo”. The first six parts of the series take place within a single continuity, while parts seven and eight take place in an alternate continuity.

Got that so far? Great.

The JoJo in today’s art is from the third series, “Stardust Crusaders,” which is currently being put into print in the United States by Viz. It’s a slick hardcover set, which looks very nice on my shelf, so it has that to sell if from jump. that Jojo is named Jotaro, and if you are wondering whether that is his hair, or a hat, the answer is “yes.”

It’s still in progress (“Stardust Crusaders”) so let me give you this summary of the awesomely strange plot:

In 1989, Jotaro Kujo, a Japanese high school student, places himself in jail because he believes he is possessed by an evil spirit. His mother Holly calls on her father Joseph Joestar to talk sense into Jotaro, and with the help of his ally the Egyptian fortune teller Mohammed Avdol, reveals that Jotaro has in fact developed a supernatural ability known as a “Stand” that has run through the family due to the revival of their ancestor’s foe Dio. After thwarting an assassination attempt by transfer student Noriaki Kakyoin who is under Dio’s thrall, Jotaro and Joseph discover that Holly is dying from her own Stand. Jotaro resolves to hunt down Dio, and Joseph leads him, Avdol, and Kakyoin to Egypt, using their Stands to battle more Stand-wielding assassins along the way, gaining allies in the French swordsman Jean Pierre Polnareff who wishes to avenge the death of his sister, and the stray dog Iggy, before fifty days elapse and Holly dies.

Got that?

The whole series is like that, and kind of incredibly awesome.

At this point, the anime club itself is racing a tighter deadline than Jotaro and his crew. I hope they make it.

Even if they don’t, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is worth a read, True Believers.

Lion Voltron Is Love.

Lion Voltron, from the Adorable Zone.

I more or less just felt like drawing Voltron, for a bunch of reasons. In part, because I have this big honkin’ Voltron ring, that about once a day people notice. More accurately though, it’s because the problem of true teamwork is once again coming up at school, and nothing defines true teamwork better than Voltron.

I haven’t really drawn any Voltron art in years, and my basic style has radically improved. Doing something for an hour a day for years might do that, but I’m really quite satisfied with that progress. It’s INDIVIDUAL progress, though, and Voltron is about teamwork.

Five robot lions, piloted by five people, come together to form one giant robot warrior. If one of those pilots is not on board with The Plan, Voltron has serious issues and can’t really get a whole lot done. It’s a fairly apt metaphor.

Last week, I met the new English teacher that was hired, who is teaching at least one section (if not more) of Tenth Grade English. My long time colleague brought him with, and the first questions he asked were:

  • Do I really need to use this textbook?
  • How about the lesson plans that we’re writing? How much do I have to stick to them?
  • Do we really need to meet to plan? If I kind of intend to “go rogue,” that is?

I was proud of my ability to keep my temper in check, because he seems like a nice enough guy. The thing is, that kind of thinking actually DOES make planning meetings kind of useless, and seriously gets in the way of productivity. I’m actually pretty amazed that I managed to finish writing the plans for the week, since I really wanted to just get up and leave.

The thing is…the leader of the Voltron Force doesn’t just up and leave, you know? He kind of toughs things out and tries to get them back on track, so that pretty much seemed like what I had to attempt to do.

I don’t really know how effective I was at that. I commented to my co-teacher afterward that it left a bad taste in my mouth, and seemed at odds with the teamwork and collaboration that we were after. Later on, the new teacher asked me for a copy of the lesson plans…although if he doesn’t intend to use them, I have no idea what that was all about.

Maybe Adorable Voltron needs fewer pilots? One can hope. Our new principal seems to be all about a sort of unified, monocultural approach to pretty much everything, and is fairly big on common goals and objectives. As a result, a kind of Voltron based system seems pretty smart, if only to satisfy the needs of the various Edu-Lords. The thing is…teamwork isn’t that big a thing at the Edu-Mountain, and as a result the Voltron gear has pretty much been in mothball storage since I arrived.

License To Frill.

@#$% Jace. He’s lazy as @#$%.

Friday Night, after a crazy long week at school, I went to Friday Night Booster Draft at my local game shop, “It’s Game Time” in Los Angeles. It’s a good thing you get DCI points for just entering, because all night long, I took a shellacking.

The Frilled Sandwalla, a good card that I passed on numerous times, was the heart of my undoing.

You see, I passed on the card, almost invariably to my left, where my friend was sitting. He drafted them, and put them to good use, pretty much kicking my @#$ with them.

The card is fantastic. It’s a green lizard that you bring out for a cost of one green. For two man, you can have it grow by +2/+2 (on turn 2!), but only once…meaning he stops at 3/3. He’s quite good for the cost.

He didn’t fit my build, though. For some reason I was drafting to Blue/Green, but in the style of a “control/counterspell” deck. To my credit, that worked decently well, in that every single game that I played was a sort of chore for my opponents. Despite being a frustrating chore…it really couldn’t counter turn one actions, and that when the sandwalla can come out to play.

I didn’t have much in the win column at the end of the night, which produced the artwork above. The sandwalla running @#$%ing wild, with Jace, the Mind Mage being a lazy @#$%. It’s like a complete narrative of the evening.

@#$% you, Jace. @#$% you.

The Final Days Of Amonkhet…

She hates it because they have dragon powers AND wizard powers, Applejack.

The Amonkhet block of Magic: The Gathering ends this month, with the new release, Ixalan, coming out in late September. Amonkhet was a fun block, and my students liked it a whole lot. They were especially excited for the Nicol Bolas planeswalker, which is exactly opposite to the kind of card that I generally like. It’s costly, takes three colors to cast onto the table, and is a mega-threat.

Nicol Bolas is the dragon in Panel One, True Believers.

Last week, we played the “Archenemies” pack by Wizards of the Coast, which comes with four preconstructed decks. Each one revolves around one planeswalker, with the fourth deck being a Bolas deck. I played the Bolas deck first, and even with all of the advantages, just couldn’t make it work for me. Too far afield of my basic play style. When playing the other decks, I did well enough, but the Bolas deck shone in other hands than mine.

I put together a three colored Bolas driven deck myself, from my Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation cards. When playing, it does exactly what its supposed to, but I just don’t have the knack for that style of play. I handed it off to one of the club members to play, and he dominated the playing field. Go figure.

Given the week at school, and how busy and hectic it was, these moments playing Magic (and generally losing) with the students have been some of the most positive parts of the week. As a result, I figured I’d do a post about the games, and the set that is soon being phased out. Amonkhet block will still be in Standard play for a while, as Innistrad is the block being dropped this release, and that came out a summer ago. So the cards aren’t going anywhere…it’s just that there’s a ton of new cards coming out that everyone will get excited about.

At least, I hope for the excitement. I really didn’t love the Kaladesh block, and was actually looking forward to that set. Fingers crossed.

For the record, Nicol Bolas’ speech balloon is a paraphrase of the menacing crap that he says on the card called “Hour of Devatation,” from which the second release of the block got its name. Real nice, Nicol Bolas. No wonder you have no friends.

One Step Beyond…!

I hope that the Edu-Mountain paid the bill on that janky old TARDIS.

That’s a pretty legitimate concern, over bill paying.

You see, Labor Day weekend was labor-intensive for thousands of teachers who had to get their grades in this week. There’s a new system in place, completely untried. However, when I (and legions of other teachers) went to sign in at LAUSD.net, the site was down.

Not just down. The domain name showed that “lausd.net has expired.” That’s a Big @#$%ing Deal. The site contains all district information and is used by the more than 700,000 students and 60,000 employees to access their information. According to the district, an “accounting issue” shut down the site temporarily…and completely.

In short, no one PAID THE BILL.

That was a serious issue. The new system, Schoology, isn’t designed to directly interface with LAUSD’s MISIS system, so teacher need to access both to produce a report card…which is pretty much due tonight at midnight. The access issues, coupled with untested interfaces, have made it a pretty stressful road to getting that report card published.

Today, I will still need to do the following:

1. Print my Schoology grade book spreadsheets.
2. Use those spreadsheets to manually enter grade totals to MISIS, since the “backpass” button is not working to port one system to the other.
3. Print the PDF files of the verifications of grades, and sign them, for each of my classes.

That doesn’t sound like a huge amount, except…

1. I need to grade any extremely late work turned in.
2. I need to teach class, which is on the Five Act Narrative structure, and how to apply it to an analysis of “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan, which we need to finish reading.
3. I need to prep for “Back To School Night,” which was ironically rescheduled for one day before report cards would be due.

So…that’s a whole lot of moving parts. That’s why Cap, and her new partner (first appearance!) are gearing up for some experimental shenanigans with that TARDIS that seems to be laying around their headquarters. At this point, the only way out is through, and today will be very much a “toss the lever and power through it” kind of day.