Monday, August 17, 2015

Karma, what goes around, comes around.

Sarge posted on Friday about how fast the summer had passed.  It’s always amazed me how relative the perception of time is.  It can pass “in the blink of an eye” or “drag on forever”, yet there are still 60 seconds in each minute…

For me this past summer, I believe it is safe to say, passed “in the blink of an eye” while simultaneously “dragged on forever”. 

The “Forklift” of our school district computer network is all but complete. 

Forklifting a network does not involve driving a forklift.
Public Domain
All computers have been replaced.  All network switches replaced also.  The connected classroom equipment has been refurbished.  

(A connected classroom has integrated the classroom whiteboard with a projector and the computer and, in the hands of a savvy teacher it makes for a pretty fun effective learning experience.  Unfortunately, savvy teachers are somewhat rare. But…I digress.)

We've troubleshot the district wide, campus wide and classroom wide problems and are now finishing the individual connection issues.  The teachers arrived back en masse last Monday and the kids will return a week from today.

So, Juvat, what does that have to do with temporal shifts?

My perception is that it seems that we let out of school the day before yesterday, but the day before yesterday was a VERY long time ago.
Opening ceremonies were held on Wednesday and we had an interesting speaker.  Guy was probably in his late thirties, early forties.  So…he's young!

He’d  been raised in South Houston and had a terrible childhood.  Actually, words like terrible fail miserably at describing his childhood.  He was beaten by his father male procreater, raped by his male procreater’s brother and abandoned by his female procreater. He then fell in to both using and selling drugs resulting in several arrests and finally a felony conviction for beating a fellow student into a coma.

At that point, he attempted suicide, but his younger brother finds him and rescues him.  In a psychiatric hospital, he meets up with someone who gets him started in the right direction.

You know where this is going? Right?

Long story short, he gets talked back into school, where he meets a football coach who gives him a chance and he’s successful.  Meanwhile a teacher connects with him and encourages him, to the point of convincing him to try college.  He’s got a football scholarship to a small Midwest school.

He manages to graduate cum laude and of course is now a successful motivational speaker.  The above is a very succinct summary of the speech and, of course, not as powerful as listening to it first-hand.

But it, as intended, got me to thinking about the effect I'd had on students.  

Over the years, I've had a few successes, and had a lot of former students come back and tell me they’d had fun in my class.  A few have related that things they learned in my class had helped them in real life.  That’s satisfying.

As I sat there, pondering, I realized that one of the  recently hired teachers had had a similar effect on me.  She’d been a student at the High School where I taught.  She’d graduated, gone to college and gotten her degree, then taught elsewhere for a few years.  Finally, she’d been hired back home at the High School.

Back when she was a student, I’d not only been a teacher, but one of the “other duties as assigned” was as the technology coordinator.  (Since when did “coordinator” take on the meaning “slave”?)  Anyhow, I was the person responsible for fixing whatever technology problem others had.

I’m OK with that as long as the other person has, at the very least, looked into the problem to see if they can figure out what the problem is and if possible, do some minor self-help to try and resolve it.

I’m in the middle of class and the kids are occupied with their projects. I’m walking around, answering questions, making suggestions and prodding the laggards as needed.  There’s a knock at the door.  I open it and one of the most pernicious teachers on the campus is there.  She also happens to be a computer teacher chronologically advanced human who stands at the front of a computer lab babbling meaningless buzz words.

“I need you to come to my room immediately, I have a problem.”

“I’ll stop by as soon as class lets out.”

“No, I need you now!”

“What’s the problem?”

“I can’t print and my student’s projects are due at the end of the period.”

“Print elsewhere.”

“Well, I’ll just go talk to the principal and tell her you’re not being helpful.”

I've been down this road, and got the scars to show for it. Thankfully, neither she nor the principal were around much longer.


I’m off to her room, opposite side of campus.  Walk in, walk over to the printer.

And turn it on.

Paper starts to flow.

I look at her and she says “What did you do?” 

I do not trust myself to speak, nor remain in the classroom, lest the students hear something inappropriate or be called to testify at the murder trial.

As I’m walking out, a student walks up to me and says “Thank you, Mr. Juvat.”

4 words. 

What a profound effect they had on me.  

She didn't have to get up, walk over and speak them.  I wouldn't have even noticed if she hadn't.  But she did.  I realized that someone appreciated my effort, small though it was, to make their day better.

By the time I got back to my classroom, my blood pressure was mostly normal. 

My class had behaved and was still basically working on their projects, so campus life was still going on.  I made sure to stop by the principal’s office after class and let her know that I’d been pulled out of class to turn on a printer.  She was annoyed and wanted to know who had done that.  There was a certain satisfaction in mentioning her friend’s name.

There’s a saying about it (attributed to various people, to include Henry Kissinger and Woodrow Wilson). 
“Campus politics are so nasty because the stakes are so small.”

Anyhow, when the former student, now new teacher, applied for a job with the district. I happened to be working on the computer of the Personnel Director’s secretary as she was setting up the interview schedule, and noticed her name.   She was very well qualified for the position and probably would have gotten it anyway, but I did relate the story to the secretary.  I didn't figure it would hurt her chances.


  1. The obsteperous teacher reminds me of a meeting some years ago at Camp Lejeune. My Gunny and I were meeting with a major to finalize the plan for an intnsive two week training program for Seabees. This major kept objecting to almost everything on our proposed schedule. Each time I would pull out appropriate documentation to show that it was not only authorized, it was also required. By the end of to hours I was ready to clobber this clown. When the meeting ended we walked out and I was fuming. My Gunny said to me, "Ah, sir, don't worry about him, he's just a sexual intellectual." I thought about that for a second and asked, Gunny, what the heck is that? "You know, sir. He's just a f*%#n know it all."

    1. And that's a tale worth remembering!

    2. I'm going to remember that term. I'll have frequent chances to use it.

  2. That was a pretty powerful video Juvat. Stanley Leone is a very effective speaker. I watched the transition in his speech as he told his story. And what a story it is!

    A good teacher is priceless, the good things they can do with a kid can make all the difference in the world.

    Improving the world, one kid at a time.

    Good stuff Juvat. Really good stuff.

    1. It was pretty dang quiet in the auditorium as he told it. I might have gotten a mote or two of dust in my eyes at times.

  3. This reminded me of a Twilight Zone episode where a teacher - about to be forcibly retired after many years, wonders if he really made a difference.

    The ghosts of a dozen of so of his former students show up and tell him the difference he made in their lives.

    On that obnoxious teacher, it reminds me of the 10% rule as taught to me by a Marine LT. "In any endeavor, 10% of the population sample eff it up for the other 90%"

    It is amazing what just a few words can mean to someone. Sometimes some good well-directed words can change the direction of someone's life.

    1. That rule is probably very accurate. Unfortunately, the effect is compounded by the Peter Principal, in that the 10% usually end up in positions of authority.

      Big fan of Twilight Zone, I'm gonna have to find that episode.

    2. Here it is

  4. Pernicious is so, so descriptive without actually being pernicious itself.
    It kinda makes you wonder what it would have taken to turn that teacher's life around.

    1. Thank you, O smithy of words. high praise indeed!

      I'm pretty sure it would have taken the same intervention Saul got on the road to Damascus.

  5. Good story, well told. Didn't know you were a teacher. Missed that detail in the CV.
    I am the IT guy here in the condo. There are widowed ladies and couples living here to account for about 40% permanent occupancy in the building. The rest are rentals. My busy time is, of course, when the snow birds arrive and they can't seem to get on line. After I demonstrate that to them, showing how you have to have ANOTHER password for the network, the second wave of calls is "I can't get the printer to work". It is an insidious plot from HP. Now reaching it's crescendo. My patience doesn't wear thin as it ought, because, as you say, the "thanks" makes it all worthwhile.
    I began my classroom teaching career with "ground attack tactics" and am now engrossed in "the life and travels of Paul, the Apostle". Pretty much the whole gamut.

    1. Thanks, Dave.
      I continually get the "can you help with my computer?" calls. I will generally help where I can, recognizing that keeping the personal computers virus free is enlightened self interest in keeping the network the same way. I do draw the line at printers. "Have you turned it off and back on" is the limit there.
      Pretty broad teaching career you've got there, Dave. Although I can see the connection between ground attack tactics and Paul. It took an air to ground strike from On High to make Saul see the error of his ways.


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