Back to School

While writing is my passion, it doesn’t pay the bills. Perhaps one day. Until then, I’m still going to enjoy teaching. I absolutely love being a teacher. I enjoy youth and learning and the subjects I teach. I dragged myself through the summer with a few more dents and scars but I survived another and being back to work feels great.

This year I am really going to focus on helping students really try to find motivation and drive to improve not only in the classroom but in their lives. Too many kids graduate high school completely unprepared to deal with anything outside of their controlled and heavily supported environment. We coddle too many kids and prop them up and drag them across the finish line only to let them collapse on the track when they should really be getting started on a much larger challenge.

We are setting babies loose in the world and expecting them to succeed but didn’t bother weening them and helping them feed themselves before we do so. So they starve and look for sustenance anywhere they can get it and often times they feed themselves junk.

So this year I’m going to try to build some adventurers who can handle themselves in the wild.

I had this thought while ranting on the first day of school, something I do frequently. I was talking about being realistic about where students are with regards to their study habits. Most kids believe they are good students even if they failed a class. There’s something wrong with that. Even though I got good grades in high school, I was not a good student. I stated that we should have a belt system like martial arts does. Everyone starts off as a white belt and everyone in the school knows that person is new to martial arts and they seek to teach them things that help them advance based on that level. In the military we wear rank on your collar or sleeve so everyone can see the achievements of that soldier and how high they are in the military hierarchy. In schools we hide achievement.

The result is that most students believe they are doing fine. Plus we’ve become hyper focused on self esteem and building students up. So they seem like they are really confident and that they feel great about themselves but the problem is, there is no reason for them to feel so good about themselves. They often times haven’t accomplished anything and they have nothing to defend their confidence so when it is challenged they fall even farther.

If you bully a person who has accomplished many things and is able to defend their achievements, that person is less likely to actually feel bad. I know for me, when someone criticizes me and I know they are wrong, it doesn’t bother me in the least. But if you get criticized and there is nothing to defend yourself, you crumble. It would be like putting on the black belt without earning it and the first time you spar your get your butt kicked. You didn’t earn the belt. When you lost it felt bad and your couldn’t defend the belt. The loss hurts deeply.

So rather than building paper tigers who think they are great but in reality can’t defend their confidence and have no real achievements to support their esteem, I’m going to try to help students be realistic about where they are and how they can improve. There’s nothing wrong with being a white belt when you start, or a private in the military. But growth is important and knowing where you are and how to improve is fundamental to successful life.

Anyways…teaching goals.

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Poem: insane

Cackles mock my soul

You laugh at my pain

Digging a deep hole

Driving me insane

Stabbing me deeply

Twisting the sharp edge

I whimper meekly

My fault you allege

You only hurt me

My deficiency

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Poem: Bath Haiku

Setting sun shines through

Warm water wraps my body

Candle lights flicker

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Poem: Sipping My Poison

Signature

My stein filled to the brim

With both blessing and sin

 

With light inviting foam

Once down will make me groan

 

For although I like this drink

Something’s in it that stinks

 

A flavor that turns sour

At any given hour

 

Still I keep on drinking

My heart keeps on dreaming

 

That one day we’ll be fine

You happily all mine

 

But then you make me sick

Proving you are toxic

 

Poison to my spirit

Plan again to exit

 

So intoxicating

You are so enslaving

 

Slowly killing my soul

You’re filling my stein full

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Poem: Ant Haiku

Little ants crawling

Please leave my pantry alone

Your feast never ends

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Sleeping Beauty

I’m not quite finished with the book yet, but I’ve been reading 12 Rules for Life by Dr. Peterson and it has been amazing so far. One of the things that really interest me is his ability to break down folk tales or Bible stories or any tale that is reflective of culture. I also really enjoy the stories of his clinical practice but that has nothing to do with writing so I’d rather focus on how he breaks down stories.

In one recent chapter, he discussed the tale of Sleeping Beauty, which is one of my favorite Disney movies. First of all, there’s a dragon and prince Phillip (my name) fights it like a champs and kills it. Awesome. There’s also a drinking song with the two kings which is also super cool. And I always thought it was hilarious when Phillip and Aurora meet because after they have apparently fallen in love by merely singing a song together after her animals steal his clothes.

At that point, Phillip asks her (keep in mind, they are already in love) “What’s your name?”

Aurora freaks out and tries to take off. He asks her when he can see her again. The exchange goes like this:

Phillip: “But when can I see you again?”

Aurora: “Never!”

Phillip: “Never?”

Aurora: “Well, maybe one day.”

Phillip: “When? Tomorrow?”

Aurora: “Oh no, tonight. In the cottage. In the glen.”

So she went from, we can never see each other again to I’ll see you tonight really quickly. Hilarious.

Peterson broke the story down as parents trying to protect their daughter from the evils of a fallen world. He points out that they did not invite Maleficent to the baby princess’ celebration. Maleficent represents nature which is not necessarily good, and in fact is wild and dangerous. Which is exactly why they want to protect their daughter from her. The evil queen curses the girl. The king and queen of course won’t have that and seek to protect her from the curse. So they destroy all spinning wheels and send their daughter to live with the good faeries who are supposed to shield her. All of this is apparently about shielding their offspring from corruption and dangers of life.

Strangely, they bring their daughter back and of course, she manages to prick her finger and fall into a coma. This is to symbolize her preferring to stay asleep and not grow up and deal with real life. In fact, the entire kingdom is asleep at that point when the faeries put everyone out.

Prince Phillip of course, escapes from Maleficent’s keep and battles to save Aurora and the kingdom after battling natural obstacles like the thorns of the roses. And of course, he battled the dragon which cursed the virgin and was victorious. He kisses her (no longer innocent) and she wakes. No longer is she the naive virgin apparently and they are going to be married.

I never put together all those details. I just enjoyed the story. But it is fascinating to think that the folk tale was about childhood innocence and parents trying to guard her from the corruption and evil of the world.

I am going to look at all those stories with a bit more attention to meaning and detail now. There was much more to Sleeping Beauty than I knew.

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The Sureshot Rises Excerpt

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The winter months were long for Durbar. Winter weather, snow, and frost chilling wind forced the woodsman to remain in his smallish cabin most days. With little to do and no one to talk to, the monotony and drudgery wore down Durbar’s spirit. The winter was typically harsh as though the wild was trying to swallow the young man or drive him out. Durbar remained, stubbornly clinging to life in an otherwise bleak and barren landscape, in a small cabin with a small fire ever burning.

Despite initial enthusiasm for the possibility of seeking out Prince Rothan and pursuing a new life, Durbar’s stomach ached and his mind was like the storms beyond the walls of his cabin. The question of whether to fire his bow in the spring competition loomed over Durbar like a dark cloud. One day Durbar was calm and able to rest and work quietly, the next we couldn’t eat or sleep and spent most of the day rolled up into a ball like a child on his bed. His mind was clouded and his spirit unsettled.

The whole of winter was spent in a battle over what to do when the cold lifted. Life in the forest weighed on the young man more than ever. He was like a part of the forest, the trees, who stood still while life around them flourished and time marched on without them. He was a lone creature with no family and no community. Still, while it was a dreary and solitary life, it was the only one he knew. The thought of something unknown was terrifying and fear gripped him tightly. It was the first time he had been scared since his father died, and that fear made him angry. He did not know how to deal with the emotion, and it just pulled him even deeper into darkness, ever teetering between fear, longing and anger. Nothing he did helped to ease his psyche.

The only friend he had was his father’s old comrade, Znak, who lived in Harmon and ran a trade shop where Durbar sold and traded goods when he needed supplies. He knew very little about the city and had never spent much time there. Whenever he did go to the town, he stayed with Znak and never really saw much else. Sometimes he stayed there a few nights, if for no other reason just to have someone to talk to.

Two forces in him collided like two opposing storms. One storm was his deep loneliness and longing for more. The other storm was his fear of the unknown and a very different world that thrived in Harmon. These opposing and raging storms paralyzed him and made him feel weak. He wanted to be in control of his life and to have some direction. For the first time, his spirit flailed wildly like a tree in the midst of these two storms, on the verge of snapping.

He passed the time as he did every year: making arrows, tanning hides, and carving bows that he could sell in the city of Harmon. At times, the work was able to take his mind off the aching in his soul, but at others, he wasn’t able to focus enough to perform his tasks. He sometimes spent hours doing nothing but staring at the smoldering fire in a deep trance. He hardly ate anything at all, only enough to keep him alive. The walls seemed to close in around him, with the winter outside trapping him. Some days he thought about burning his cabin down just to force himself to leave. The only thing that kept him from losing his mind was working on bow after bow.

Finally, after two months of daily agony, as the end of winter approached, Durbar went off into the woods to visit his father’s grave. He rarely went to the spot where his father had been killed because it caused him pain. Durbar needed to make a decision; he was at his wit’s end. He hadn’t slept well in over a month. He was exhausted. His father was always so decisive, so confident, and Durbar longed for that kind of confidence, but he was not even close. In many ways, he was still the fifteen-year-old boy he was when Adar died.

There was still snow on the ground. It was even thick in shaded places and much of the forest was shaded. The air got cold when the sun went down, but it was still and clear, sobering really. As he approached the grave, the sun was low in the sky but was unable to penetrate most of the forest floor.

He got to the tree where his father laid. The tree was immense and dark. It was not far from where Adar was struck down. The trees around it were thick and made it a very quiet place to rest. Durbar marked the tree by carving his father’s name into the bark. He scarred it so badly that it had not been able to heal the grooves, and “Adar” remained clearly written there.

He collapsed from stress at the foot of the great tree and began to weep. For several minutes he sobbed and finally he looked up to the sky and cried, “Father, why did you leave me? I need you, Father. You are everything to me. I am lost without you. I don’t know what to do, Father. Please help me. Tell me what to do. I don’t know what to do.” He cried harder, repeating the various questions to the heavens truly hoping for an answer but finally drifted off to sleep, completely exhausted.

Durbar slept for about an hour underneath his father’s tree. When he awoke, it was nearly dusk. The cold mountain air was burning Durbar’s face. He shivered, face frosted from his frozen tears. It had been a long time since he cried like that. Much of the time he felt angry that his father was gone, and that anger prevented the sorrow that begged to be released. His pride tried to hold back the tears, but the love for his father was too great. He thought it made him seem weak to cry, but somehow, he felt better for it. He lay on his back and stared at the sky. For the first time since meeting Prince Rothan in the forest, his mind was empty. Finally, as the night stretched on and became deep, Durbar kissed the tree where his father laid and said, “Goodbye for now, Father. I will return someday to you, but until then I must leave you behind. I love you, and I await the day when we can see each other again.”  With that, he made his way back to the cabin, ate some food, and went to sleep. The best sleep he had all of winter.

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