I like history. I’m a self-confessed history dork. It annoys me when people treat history as if it is irrelevant because its already happened. Like it doesn’t matter because its happened in the past. It is impossible to comprehend what is happening now without an understanding of reasons and causes. That’s what history is – reasons and causes and a whole crap load of small decisions leading to events. To paraphrase Strengthsfinder, I understand the present by researching the past. Nothing is happening for the first time. It’s all happened before. The answers are in the past.
For example if you want an understanding of the cultural and social “feeling” of certain periods of recent history, go spend some time on youtube. Watch the second half of the 1974 AFC Championship between the Steelers and Raiders. One of the commercials you’ll see is an ad by Amoco taking great pride in their investment into new sources of domestic oil production to make us less dependent on foreign sources. Sound familiar? Yeah, nothing is happening for the first time.
Or as your 8th grader starts school go to the Juinor High Open House. I did this. Rye made gave me a map of the school, wrote “1” on her first period classroom, “2” on the second period room and so on. Parents literally walked the hall and visited the classrooms of their children. We spent about 10 minutes in each class listening to and visiting with the teachers. I was anxious to go. I missed it last year. Like I’ve written before, I liked 8th grade. So I was really interested to see how Rye’s 8th grade day proceeded.
Here’s my schedule:
Team Meeting in the Auditorium. This is really like homeroom. All the teachers we see during our tour were there and gave us a preview of the Open House and while also giving the hard sell on all of our fundraising “opportunities.” Riiiiiiight…
1st Period Room 2105 Spanish
First things first. This was literally the first time I’d walked the halls of a school between classes since the final days of May 1988 during my senior year of high school.
Went from the Auditorium to the second floor and walked confidently into Spanish class, found a seat and looked at the papers that were already on my desk. It was in Spanish. Panic ensured. It got worse when the teacher explained she was fluent in Spanish, French and German and not only was certified to teach each language but was also certified in Math. Yeah, I thought that was weird too.
Anyway, back to my panic. Not kidding about it, my heart dropped. Felt exactly like that feeling you faced you had a pop quiz and were unprepared or your teacher handed out the test and you realized after seeing the first few questions that you studied the wrong stuff. I looked at the sheet of paper and thought, “oh sh*t, I don’t know any of this crap. I’m hosed.” Seriously. For the ten minutes I was in there all I did was watch the clock and diagram an exit strategy so when the bell rang I could escape the room as expeditiously as my genetics would allow me.
Bell rang and I was like a vapor trail. A ghost. I was like Nightcrawler in the X-Men. All you smelled was the faint whiff of burning brimstone. Oh and the bell didn’t actually ring. It played music. Pretty sure it was Kidz Bop versions of popular songs. Whatever.
2nd Period Room 1314 Math
Math was never my strongest subject. Plus Rye had just brought home a math class compact that she had signed and needed us to sign to show our commitment to learning and the rules of the class. One of the rules of the class was “Not to speak ill of the Huskers.” Right, those Huskers. The Nebraska Cornhuskers. Naturally, I objected to signing. Rye initially thought I was joking. She realized the seriousness of her error when I starting writing a short note on the sheet describing why I was unable to agree to anything the prevented me from speaking ill of the Huskers.
Eventually, I relented and the signed the damn thing but it felt wrong. Once in class the teacher explained how the classroom worked, her rules and expectations along with her background. She went to Creighton which explained why she was a Husker fan. Typical. She also let us know that in addition to a degree in math, she also had a degree in English which kind of explained why it had an atypical touchy-feely groove going on in the math room. But my panic did subside.
3rd Period Gymnasium P.E.
The PE teachers stressed two things. First, make sure your kids bring home their gym uniforms. If you don’t the uniforms will begin to stink before eventually developing small ecosystems of tiny organisms which have in the past resulted in the uniforms themselves turning into the The Thing from the 1982 movie of the same name. Second, the two teachers have taught at this particular junior high for the last 27 years. If you also suffer from a math disorder, that means they’ve been here since the second term of the Reagan administration. But I liked that they keep exposing the kids to all kinds of sports, explaining the rules and strategies and testing them on it. Everyone needs to understand the basic responsibilities of the man playing the bottom of the 1-3-1 zone defense in basketball.
4th Period Room 2107 Social Studies
Hallelujah. Not only my favorite subject but my best. I excelled in Social Studies way back in third grade. And I don’t mean in the “hey he shows an aptitude for this subject” kind of way. I mean in the “1984 Dan Marino 5,084 yards and 48 touchdowns in his second year in the league” kind of way. What? It’s not bragging if its true. Anyway, the teacher is also a self-described history dork. He’s doubles as the high school baseball coach while also coaching the 8th grade football team. I kinda liked this guy. The class is doing a unit on Native Americans and was debating whether or not Christopher Columbus deserved to have the various monuments erected in his honor. After all, he took land that wasn’t his and then, reportedly, took the natives of the aforementioned land back to Spain as slaves. Yet he has monuments. Not a bad debate to have even if I’d rather they focus on what actually happened, why it happened the way it did and some of the results of said happenings. But that’s just me.
5th Period Room 1106 Science
I have literally gone up and down the same flight of stairs four times. A quick reference check of map reveals that two more trips remain. Booooo. And this flight of stairs is located in the northwest corner of the building. A corner that was not designed with traffic flow in mind. If you have an impairment when it comes to crowd navigation, then my guess is that you are repeatedly late for class. As luck would have it, crowd navigation is a skill in which I outperform most other parents. But it did bring to mind who exactly Rye was passing the halls on a daily basis. Note to self on which boys remain on the “persons of interest” list.
I kinda liked the science teacher. She’s been teaching since 1977 in both high school and junior high. She likes a lot things about teaching today but misses the late 70’s when you still were allowed to blow stuff up. As the President’s mentor Bill Ayers can attest. Allegedly. But that’s a different discussion. Regardless, she said she preferred the 8th graders over the high schoolers. Mostly because they still say “thank you” and possess the need to please. Unlike the high schoolers who are, well…dicks. I’m paraphrasing of course. But I took the discussion, more or less, as her saying the 8th graders, while not perfect by any means, were still in pre-dickish behavior while high schoolers had completed devolved into diskish/dick-move behavior. Anyway, FYI in case you were wondering.
6th Period Room 2103 English
Back up the stairs. I was not a fan of English class in grade school or high school. This is something I now regret. I should have been more invested. But when it came to the literature I was assigned to read, I was just not interested. But Rye’s teacher seemed super excited about being an English teacher. Which is good because Rye’s demographic, well, sucks when it comes to the English language. So enthusiasm might be the only avenue to get them to pay attention. Rye said she thinks her English teacher is pretty cool too so that’s good. Right now they are supposed to be recording their reading progress in daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly logs. I like accountability. Especially when its English class and my kids instead of English class and me. They are reading The Outsiders. Which, as you undoubtedly know, was turned into a 1983 movie starring Matt Dillon, Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise, C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe and Diane Lane. Kinda makes you wonder what the hell Charlie Sheen, Lea Thompson and Judd Nelson were doing at the time instead of being in the movie. Need to ask Rye what she thinks of the book and then rent her the movie.
7th Period Room 1204 Communications & Media
I liked this class. The teacher has worked in TV, magazines, radio and even the movies. She also teaches drama, which Rye has 2nd semester 7th period, and is in charge of the school play. Two things I thought were kinda cool: the class puts on their own live radio drama like back in the ‘30’s and ‘40’s and she spends time with them on how corporate American convinces you to buy their products through advertising. She plans on spending a lot of time on advertising. I, for one, liked this. Because nobody buys junk likes teens. They’re like junk buying savants.
That’s it. 7 periods. After last period, the teacher asked me “who I belong to” and when I told her Rye was mine, she said, “Of course, you look just like her! She’s the cutest!” Which I took as a compliment regardless of its intent.
But the whole experience reminded me of high school and the class switching and trips to your locker and all of that, well, crap. I don’t miss it all. Not even a little. There is absolutely nothing that happened during the Open House that caused me to say or think “Oh man, this is cool, I miss this.” And I’m a ridiculously nostalgic guy. But mostly I think I am just grateful that I don’t have to do it anymore. So I’m not real sure what to make of my reaction. I’m happy I went. I’m happy I met the teachers, I’m happy I was able to walk the route Rye walks everyday. But more than anything, I’m happy its over. Because sometimes, nostalgia is just uncomfortable.