Being a Pack Rat

Pays Off. Well, to a certain point. I’m way past that point, but I am determined to make this a road of return.

Now it is time to purge. Mental pillaging if that’s appropriate. I don’t really know all that is involved in pillaging rather than it’s a bad thing, but how bad? I usually hear Pillaging, Plurging, and even some Plundering, though I must confess I don’t know what Plunder means. If plundered means confused, that’s me. But if it means something really bad, nope.

Well, maybe. You can be the judge of it.

Around four or less years ago, I had pillaged my career. Plundered by employment at the Willamette Leadership Academy. I was purged from WLA.

I apologized to the school, to the principal, to the board of directors, to the staff, to students for writing on Facebook that the school was using teacher’s licensing falsely. I apologized even though it was true. I taught US History multiple years. I never was endorsed to teach US History. If you look at students’ records, my name isn’t on high school transcripts. I taught other classes that I wasn’t qualified. I did what was asked of me, and for the most part without much of a complaint.

Well, towards the end of my five-year-tenure, which was the longest in the history of the school for a teacher at the PYCO organization. Cheney had me by a half a school year. The Colonel didn’t count because they promoted him to run the school after one or two years of teaching sixth grade. It really didn’t take that much to get promoted around there. If.

If, you played the game. The school was so desperate when they called me to interview. Their strategy was to call people from the substitution list and beg you to apply for the job.

I had graduated in 2004 with my teaching credentials, but due to some mess-ups along the way, I never could land a job. I’d interview. Mostly I didn’t even interview. I don’t know if my age has anything to do with it, but that’s the straw I drew. I settled in for a long and hard career as a substitute teacher. I was willing to substitute at any school anywhere. I even drove a couple of hours to McKenzie River for a half day. I did that more than once.

Some of you, especially former WLA students, I am the biggest pushover that ever had a teaching degree. Hamlin kids in Springfield ate me up as I was just so nice. I believe everyone. I have had half the class in the bathroom because I believed them. Might even have been high schoolers, but there was always someone who would tell me. I suppose I should miss all of those big bodies, but I’d be talking to the kids, helping them out, and I just wouldn’t notice. They were after all high schoolers. Was I to make them go one boy and one girl at a time?

Ate me up. My student teaching experience caused me to cry. Mostly I was crying for myself. When I wanted to be a teacher, I wanted to be an elementary school teacher. As I grew up, I wanted to coach, so I started to sort of think about the older kids, but even with the older kids, everyone loves the PE teacher.

Not the English teacher. Here comes a mini whine story. While I was at Ithaca College, I tore my ACL and my MCL my first semester Sophomore year while playing Lacrosse. If I hadn’t flunked anatomy the semester before, I would have known what that was, but I didn’t, and I didn’t even know the importance of those letters in my knee until I listened to the doctors and athletic trainers. I have to backup this story. Doctors?

I tore my knee up plowing into a offender to prevent her from scoring on me. The ortho guy I had in Ithaca, said it was F’ed up, and I needed surgery. I was 19 and four hundred miles from home. I wasn’t letting a doctor I didn’t know, and who had a reputation for being knife happy. (Maybe these paragraphs need to go into a different blog. What do you think? Until I hear otherwise, I will go on.)

I couldn’t do a lot of my classes. I was extremely depressed. I was in a cast from my hip to my toe. I bowled a few times, but almost spun over. That was, come to think of it, the first time I really fell in love with bowling. I had forgotten about bowling there.

I’m so off…Back to being a desperate sub in desperate times. When the Willamette Leadership Academy recruited me, I was floored. I had never heard of WLA. I didn’t know Eugene, though only in address, or Veneta that there was a military school. I wasn’t ever really against military, though I have been against war and military spending all my consciousness life. Conscious doesn’t really say it. I’ve been conscious many a time without really know what’s going on. I’m really good at it.

I came in for the interview. I saw Sgt.’s spitting into youth face’s as they yelled at the kid. I almost wet  my pants. I hate yelling. It scares me. I didn’t even like it when they yelled attention if I walked into the room. I’d wave that part. There was all sorts of yelling I did away with. You don’t have to yell, “Permission to take our seats Ma’ams!”

Some of you are confused. When I was Captain Honthumb at Willamette Leadership Academy I was the strictest teacher. I had high expectations. I gave quizzes every day. I gave homework every day. This is high school. If a cadet didn’t do his homework, he or she would go outside and get PT’d until they were dragging. My favorite Sergeant was a computer genius, Sgt. Ough, and that name fits him. I would ask Sgt. Ought to put the kids through the paces at lunch time. They got their obligatory twelve minutes. For some, it caused some to do their homework. It’s not like I was hard. I did give them the quiz questions a week to a month in advance. Short answer. Ten questions. Right from the little section of reading. I was not asking too much.

I taught Pre-Algebra at WLA. No, I’m not a math endorsed teacher, but these poor cadets were so below their basics that I wasn’t teaching number identification and division. The kids got mad at me when I banned calculators. Just liked controlled substances, though in the early years, there were a lot more spot inspections for that stuff.

The school was desperate to keep students as well as staff. There were slackers that never had any intention of getting with the program, and the Colonel kept giving them slack. Colonel Mac was more of a softy than I was, especially since they were his kids that I couldn’t control. Davis. Brown. I don’t remember first names as only last names are used.

I’m surprised my hair didn’t go white in the first half of the year. I was a late hire to the high school. Second semester. The numbers fluctuated. Twenty-five max, but sometimes dangerously went low as I demanded that the kids either get on board or they get off the ship. I wanted to stop the squeaky wheel when I had some students who wanted to learn. I got good at doing paperwork. I got good at making the sergeants do the paperwork, but that rocked the boat. If we got under a certain number of students, we wouldn’t be able to pay the bills. They were already giving us peanuts. No vacation. No retirement. Heck, at first there wasn’t even insurance.

I took the job because I dreamed of teaching. After a while, I realized that these giant pickle-colored cadets were really only little kids in disguise; their emotional maturity was almost as low as their academic maturity.

I got used to the yelling. Did a little bit myself, but only when really, really, really angry. I let the Sgts do that. I did like to walk the kids around the track and talk; that was more my speed. Gave me a reason to get out of the classroom.

As I said, there’s either the fast-track or the no track at the school. If the school didn’t like you or your philosophy, you were not promoted and you were not asked back. I felt bad for Lt. Prince. For half a year, he was the only high school teacher. He had to teach every subject to high schoolers. He didn’t sleep. Sometimes he slept on the floor at the school. There wasn’t enough time in the day to prepare for twenty-five kids. Alpha was the only company. They let Randy go the next year.

I continued to plead for the ones who wanted to learn and demand that we give walking papers to others. It started to work. The shift started to happen. Back when I started working at WLA January 2007, it was true that mostly bad kids went to PYCO. I was determined to make that change.

I don’t think I worked as much as Randy Prince ever did. I never slept on the linoleum in a tiny little office. But I did put in up to 80 hours a week. I have all of the lesson plans I had to create. There wasn’t enough time in the day to schedule teachers prep time. So, if I was t teaching US History, Government, Pre-Algebra, and two to three English classes. There wasn’t even a repeated lesson. I was given no lesson plans. I was given  nothing.

If it hadn’t been for the comedian turned late night show host hadn’t put my picture on his television show, WLA wouldn’t have gotten knew US History textbooks. Darn. I should know his name.

I’m tired of just thinking about the hours I put into the school. Lots of fundraising events. I couldn’t say no.

I started the 2008 school year as a newly appointed First Lieutenant. No, my partner wasn’t invited to the ceremony, but I was pleased as punch. I had bought the military style system. I kept my standards up and pushed the kids that would let me push.

I was on the fast-track. Cheney and I. Ironically on Sylvia’s birthday, September 22, 2009, I was promoted to Captain. I hadn’t realized at my other promotion that typically spouses were invited to promotions. Spouses got to actually pin the rank on. Even though Roger McClelland and all the staff thought it was okay that I was a lesbian. They came to my house. At my food and drank my beer. They asked about her with earnestness, but it never occurred to them to ask Sylvia. Well, maybe the Christian-run school board that follows a Christian-founding. I didn’t hold it against them as long as they didn’t hold it against me.

When Major Cheney left on maternity leave, I took over helm for a week stint at Camp Baker. I loved running it, and thought it went rather smoothly. Well, except when a staff member gave some girls some chew. I went ballistic. She was later on awarded teacher of  the year. Really.

I don’t know when or why the wheels started to come off the bus. I started to say no. I started to get grumpy. Eighty hour weeks for five years can do that to a person. I had a few surgeries, but I was hanging in there.

At one point, I noticed some shifting in attitude of headquarters. There was a student I was going to bat for that wanted reinstatement. I did this to plenty of kids who truly were  willing to change their ways and were sorry for the offenses. There was a sweet young man who brought a knife to school. I believed him that he didn’t mean to bring it. I fought for his return, and he did turn out to be a great cadet. McCluskey I think was his name. For the kids who were ready to turn their lives around, I was willing to bust my butt for them as long as they were willing to bust theirs as well. For some, it worked.

And for others, it didn’t. Maybe there were complaints that I made a kid do some exercise because they couldn’t be bothered to do their homework. I made them do correction if they couldn’t bring a lousy pen to school, especially when I started the year  handing them out left and right, until a six month to year supply would disappear in a month, mostly because the boys liked to eat them. Shoot spit balls with them. Not ever use them.

This ranting and raving has really stirred up lots of stuff. I’m wondering how long I should hold onto those five years worth of lesson plans.


1 Comment

  1. Ditch the lesson plans. They are useless matter taking up space.

    The older you get, the more you are going to crave space, even in the space you inhabit now, just free open space, less clutter, fewer things, more open space to just be in. Our homes have become like storage facilities and we are just shoveled into them, in amongst all the stuff. I am the most guilty, too, and it’s crushing my spirit having all this stuff. You’ve got years left to purge yourself of it… you made a start with your tee shirts (are they GONE from your house yet?)… so I know you can do it.

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