From Pickles to Bubble Gum

 

I fell for it again today, the inevitable trap set for unwary teachers at the high school where I’m ever so slowly becoming an educator, and along the way developing some great relationships with the next generation of young Israeli leaders. This year had been a tough one, having met with my students for only a short period of time before we left for the holidays, and subsequently unable to return. By the end of Sukkot, we had all wrapped up a wonderful holiday season with family and friends, eaten and drunken far too much, and were ready for one more day of rest before the start of the real teaching season began, Sunday morning, October 8. Then, school was cancelled. It was far too dangerous, you see, to send kids out into our world. It was far too horrible to even comprehend what had happened. Each of us went into reaction mode, protecting our families, our neighborhoods, ourselves and each other, listening for the latest news, preparing for the worst, both mentally and physically. The school clock had just stopped, along with the path set to educate, to deliver as a teacher, and to build our world forward.

Slowly … the internet began to trickle to life, October 9 … October 10 … covering us all under a dark new reality. We began to understand the workings of the enemy’s terror, even as it became clear that our leaders, one and all, had ultimately been responsible for the state we found ourselves in. The pompous banter and the bull-chested bellowers had won the day, October 7, and we found ourselves without leaders, without a way to lean, and without anything but our own, personal vitality. Each of us had to put down our own goals and our own lives. We leapt to contribute to our society in only the most positive ways; we volunteered our time and expertise, and we put aside all that we had been developing. We joined together, clasping hands as if searching for a missing person, one step at a time, through the unknown, walking slowly up the road to One.

As a teacher, I have grown much in the past 5 years. I began my latest career just before the age of 60, and have often been pleasantly surprised with the interactions I’ve had. I was older than all of my college professors, you see, but I still acted as if I was in high school. Yeah, you may know me, that I’ve been interested in finding the edges of living ever since I was conscious of living a life. While I was in high school I sunk my mind into art, my body into skateboarding, and my soul into surfing. Consequently, each wave I rode, grind I achieved, or piece I completed, I understood just a little bit more about the world in which I lived. Riding the edges of reality has always kept me aware of a deeper interest, a place where no one had seemingly gone before; at least in my own mind. Hence, learning and growing based upon the blurred reality I found at the fringes of living have become the act itself, life as I know it. Teaching worded within began to reveal itself; it resonated, it soared. 

Last year I was just beginning to understand the impact I could have on my students. I day-dreamt about different outcomes constantly, but once the world had relaxed away from the pathogen reaction mode it had been fostering since the beginning of my training for a new career, I settled into quite a few brand new relationships, with both students and other teachers. Pushing out the art-edges through this strange new reality became quite sumptuous, as well. Once in a while I had to grind an axle, but mostly the surf was epic, and occasionally I was able to find a jewel in the rough. 

Walking to work through a nature reserve, I came to school one morning bright and ready to learn, ready to teach. I let myself in through a tiny gate hidden under trees skirting the nature reserve behind our school, put my ear-buds away and walked down the path to my basement office-cubicle. Then, I noticed that something was wrong, since the door to the hall I usually entered through was closed. I looked at it, closed, but cracked open slightly, and then noticed a tiny mob of students snickering under the shade of a tree. Tracking back between the two images for a few steps, I was about to reach for the door to open it when I recognized one of my students in the group as he leapt forward. He had a look of concerned humor as he beat me to the door. I stopped and waited for what would happen next. My student, bashfully, grabbed the door and yanked it open as I stood and watched a bowl full of soupy cucumbers fling down onto the ground under the door's opening. Thanks to my student, I had narrowly evaded a cucumber trap!

It was meant for another unsuspecting passerby, not me, you see. We were both a bit embarrassed, my student and I, after the fact, sheepishly looking into each other’s eyes, then back down to the ground between us. I didn’t let him live it down, mind you, and even this year wrote a cryptic note on his report card that only he and I could understand. After all, he jumped into the fray of living and saved me, regardless of his prior commitments and obligations to the others he had been sitting with, that day, under a tree. 

Today I fell for it again, but it was different this time. I had just entered a classroom to give an exam to students in the 12th grade. They have a Bagrut exam coming up soon in which they need to learn how to research information quickly and write their thoughts down in an essay format, seamlessly. My student from last year, who saved me from the pickle trap, was in attendance, as well. After organizing the students, I pulled my chair over to my tiny desk at the head of the room, and sat down. After the students began to flurry themselves into the task at hand, I began to organize my activities for the lesson in front of me: grading unseens, marking essays from another day’s teaching, placing hatamot charts and grading rubrics out in front of me, along with white-board markers to keep the time for the test-takers. Then, when I stood to cross out with a red line the last time gone, the chair stuck to my ass. My brand new blue jeans pulled away from my body in an unnatural way and made my knees knock and my face redden. Oy, I had sat right down onto a bubble gum trap, placed there from the class which met just before, and nobody knew... 

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