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Over the Hump

written Saturday, 2/9/2008

If I could just vacation through that entire first half of each school year, teaching would be a pretty sweet gig. That long holiday-barren stretch from August to November is brutal. Teachers must get accustomed to their students, students must get accustomed to their teachers, and everyone must get accustomed to new school policies and procedures implemented over the summer. Like last year though, things are looking up for the second half. The weeks seem to go by more quickly and there’s always another holiday just around the corner.

Mardi Gras!

Carnival just wrapped up, securing its distinction as my favorite time of year in New Orleans. During the festival period I made one of my rare forays into the debauchery and stench of Bourbon Street, and I still wonder how this has come to typify the prominent national perception of Mardi Gras. Likewise, the frat party atmosphere along certain stretches of the parade routes didn’t even appeal to me in my drinking days of last year. Rather, the highlights for me involve the ample opportunities to socialize with old and new friends against the backdrop of marching bands, jazz bands, and floats. My social circle these days includes mostly Lusher colleagues. For better or worse, the TGNO group that endured Katrina together seems to be drifting into new, separate directions. In just the five days leading up to Mardi Gras day, I hung out with no less than ten fellow middle/high school teachers and their spouses and children (ranging from 7 months to 10 years). For me at least, the type of staff camaraderie and team-building we try to institute within the school setting pales in comparison to the bonding that takes place during Carnival.

I tried to reel back my activity level this year, yet I still attended 17 parades (out of 60+ in the Greater New Orleans area). My favorite parade, like last year, is put on by the all-female Krewe of Muses. Last year when my manly charm failed to win much attention from the ladies, I found that the “poor teacher” routine earned me more and better throws. I decided to play up that angle this year. I made a sign that I thought would appeal to the Muses’ satirical sensibilities. Results were mixed however for the poster board, which read, “Dear Muses: I Teach Your Rotten Teens for Very Little Pay.” Many of the float riders read the sign and chuckled, but declined to throw me anything. Eventually my keenly-tuned social senses detected that most of their chuckles were not of the ha-ha-ha-you’re-so-funny-so-I’ll-throw-you-something-good variety, but instead were of the he-he-he-that’s-kinda-funny-but-you’re-an-@$$hole variety. Goodness gracious, had I offended my dear Muses? Surely they’re aware of the rottenness inherent in teenagers?! One woman marching by even turned to me and chastised, ”That’s not very nice!” Oh well. The few who did get it threw me some pretty good stuff, and once again I managed to score the most sought-after throw of the Muses parade: A hand decorated woman’s shoe. A mother of one of my students riding in the parade called me over to the float and handed me the glittery prize, to my giddy delight. I must admit though, I highly suspect that she just recognized my tall gangly frame and didn’t actually have time to read my poster. If she had, would she still have given me the shoe? I’m not sure, but next year I think I’ll shift strategies and create a sign that reads, “Dear Muses: Every day I’m blessed with the bountiful pleasure of teaching your charming, precious angels.”

So Mardi Gras is over, and the mountain of gaudy plastic beads on my kitchen counter serves as a reminder of the good times. Mixed amongst the beads are cups, stuffed animals, and various other crap thrown from floats. One of the more unusual throws for me this year was handed to me by a woman in the Krewe du Vieux parade along the outskirts of the French Quarter. Decked in a red mask and sequined leotard, she strutted up to me and proclaimed, “Here, I have something special for you!” I thought she appeared to be holding a little hat of some kind, so I removed the hood of my sweatshirt and lowered my head. Instead of putting it on my head though, she simply handed me the garment, smiled, and marched away. It’s quite an unusual hat, fashioned to resemble an elephant’s head and long, narrow trunk (photo included below). I can see that the black elastic straps would be required to hold it onto my head, but I’m still not sure how it’s supposed to be worn. Thank you pretty sequined marching lady, nonetheless.
Someone hoping to save the French Quarter sinners A Bacchus float A Zulu float A Zulu float
A Zulu float A Zulu float A jazz band in the Zulu parade Mardi Gras Indians ready to march
Former Lusher colleague and GNOWP director Margaret with Aidan Lusher colleague Chuck with Aidan My Muses sign, beads, and the prized shoe What on odd-looking hat

Still trying to get some class

Hampering my efforts to enjoy New Orleans are these stinkin’ education classes. However, I am encouraged by the recent discovery that I may likely earn my M.Ed. this summer, contingent upon someone in the Education department at U.N.O. actually figuring out exactly what my degree requirements are. I’m currently taking a class in Geometry Instruction at the U.N.O. campus. I’m also taking an Internet class for the first time, but it involves more than just web pages and email communication. The class takes place in an online virtual realm called Second Life in which each participant creates an avatar (graphical online persona) and guides it through virtual worlds created by the nerdier participants. In addition to “chatting” by keyboard with other participants who have their avatars present in the same world, those with headsets can actually talk to and hear each other. The Second Life software is not limited to educational purposes, and it makes for an intriguing (if not creepy) learning environment. The purpose of this class, I believe, is to explore the advantages and pitfalls of utilizing virtual environments as educational settings. Kinda cool, although I’ll still be thrilled to be done with stinkin’ grad school.
My avatar, "Jeromeo Jaxxon," standing in front of the virtual University of New Orleans Standing in front of the virtual Tech Museum of Innovation, which looks very much like the actual museum in San Jose, CA. Standing on the dance floor, but refusing to dance (Much like real life)


Ahhhh, it’s that special time of year to celebrate the fine females in my life. No, I’m not talking about that stupid pseudo-holiday. I’m talking about the one-year anniversary of my sweet babies Kong and Estelle coming to live with me. After Mardi Gras last year I adopted them following several weeks of contemplating whether I really wanted the responsibility of pet ownership at this uncertain stage of life. Now I can’t imagine not coming home to my lively, affectionate furballs every day. And these lovely little ladies don’t even expect anything special from me on February 14. Awesome.
Kong typically looks out the window to the left of the front door. Estelle typically looks out the window to the right of the front door.

Back in the studio

No matter how much I feel stretched by demands of life, making time for foolishness will always be a priority. A couple months ago I astounded my Algebra 2 classes with my smash hit song about the quadratic formula, “Solve That” (see 12/30/2007 entry). Several students have asked what might be my follow-up single, but I refused to answer. The creation of quality music cannot be rushed.

Right before going to bed on Wednesday night a week and a half ago, the inspiration for a new song finally hit me. Like most of my favorite artistic endeavors, the creative process occurred quickly and effortlessly. I have no musical background, yet I humbly submit that I have crafted quite a lyrical gem. Yes indeed, you are in for quite a sumptuous listening experience, if I do say so myself. Actually, forget the humility… (continued)