Dying of Embarrassment!

I love words. I love learning new words. I love trying to determine the meaning of a new word based on the context in which I might hear or read it, after which I will open a dictionary (or ask Siri) for the definition. Please don’t hate me for it; it’s my job. I’m not shy about telling anyone who asks what I “do” that I’m an author, so my passion for words is entirely defensible. I initially wrote “excusable,” but found “defensible” more appropriate for expressing my proclivity to wax poetic when given the opportunity.

Just today I posted the following plea on Facebook:

Everyone please repeat after me: “I feel BAD about that.”

You don’t feel badly (unless you identify silk as barbed wire in a blind touch test). How many of you feel goodly about things? You don’t. Stop saying you feel badly.

So, you can only imagine the horror and embarrassment I felt when I committed a most heinous faux pas—on a couple of levels—at an RV Campground this past weekend. Here’s what happened:

In bold print along the mirrors in the bathroom are warning signs about what you “Absolutely” cannot do with your hair. I suppose the signs are necessary, what with potentially clogged sinks and power issues and such. So when I was in the stall and heard the sound of a hairdryer, I tried to think of a non-threatening way to bring my concern to the blatant rule-breaker.

At this point in my story, please remember my comment about reading words “in context.”

I went to the sink next to Ms. Rule-Breaker and smiled at her, then stared at the sign right in front of her, then looked back at her.

“I feel like I’m on Candid Camera right now,” I told her, giggling a non-threatening giggle, “like someone’s watching to see who’ll report the person, or tell them not to do what they’re doing.” I smiled again and nodded toward the signs.

Ms. Rule-Breaker looked confused and mumbled something like, “Yeah, okay,” and kept drying her hair. A woman of about 45, she looked like she could have been a school teacher or a librarian. I expected more from her, but I wasn’t about to make a bigger deal than I’d already made of the situation, so I left to help Mike prep the trailer for our departure.

“Emptying the shitter” is the last step before locking up (Chevy Chase Christmas Vacation fans will appreciate that visual), and I took the opportunity to grouse to Mike.

“They have the same signs in the men’s room too,” he told me, though he thought it was weird. “Maybe they have problems with circuit breakers.”

“Well, I guess the lady I just saw in the bathroom believes the rules don’t apply to her.”

No sooner had I uttered the words than the very same rule-breaker walked around our trailer, hairdryer in hand, and glared at me.

“And just so you know,” she said, “the signs say ‘No Hair DYING’.” She turned in a huff and walked away.

I wanted to run after her and say, “Oh! Really? I’m so sorry! I’m an author . . . I’ll write something funny about this . . .,” but Mike suggested that she might be an author too, and the words she’d use to describe me might not be so funny.

Yes, I was a sanctimonious ass, but come on! “ABSOLUTELY NO HAIR DYING” just doesn’t make sense in an RV Campground bathroom, does it? And in the men’s room too? Well at least now I know (should I ever decide I need to touch up my roots while camping), and I also know I need to read signs more closely . . . and speak more softly in public places!


School Rules

Another school year is ending and our new superintendent is looking for input on yet another new program that will be marketed as “a fix” for our broken school district. Sadly, I was unable to attend the community meeting at the high school where I could have provided my input on both the “Expeditionary Learning” program and the qualities I’d like to see in a new high school principal. Sadder, however, is that I heard attendance was embarrassingly low.

A friend recently asked what I thought about the new program. After teaching both here and at a school in Colorado Springs that closed for consistent poor performance (after trying several new programs), my response was that no program will work until the leaders in our school district open their eyes to one of the biggest problems we’re dealing with in our schools: lack of effective discipline.

It appalls me that the state is not stepping in sooner to deal with this blatant problem. It appalls me even more that parents of students in this district have not been outraged by the status quo that is summarized by the apathetic, “Hey, it’s Leadville, what do you expect?” attitude of our students, and that they have not demanded the resignation of a school board that seems content to throw money at the latest “fix” without addressing the root problem.

How much money will be spent to train faculty on this program in order to see if it will be “a good fit” for our population? I hate to be cynical, but based on my past experiences as a teacher in this district, I’d bet that the decision to implement the program has already been made, and without asking any of our teachers who have tried to tie in the beauties of our surroundings with their curriculum how it has worked for them.

The idea sounds fabulous—and it may even be working at King Middle School in Maine (Way far away from here: Hispanic population=5.7%)—but again, without the ability for teachers to enforce a strict behavioral code—and to be supported by their superiors in doing so—program after program will continue to have our schools in the news as failing our students.

Why not allocate funds for security cameras in hallways and classrooms? How wonderful it would be to have visual evidence of why “Little Johnny” isn’t learning. Why not spend money on a vo-tech curriculum that will serve the needs of the majority of our student population? How about mandatory classes on social etiquette and maturity so our high school students will understand why it’s not okay for them still to be acting like 5-year-olds? I have some other ideas I’d be willing to share—free of charge—to anyone interested in listening.

As for qualities I’d like to see in a new principal—and in those in leadership and teaching positions throughout the district—how about the ability to see a problem and to address it without fear of recrimination? How about the ability to enforce a no-nonsense policy that supports our teachers and allows time for them to do what they’ve been trained to do? How about someone who has the gumption to say no to any number of new “programs” that ultimately only profit companies who neither know nor care about our students?

I don’t know that there’s one reason why large numbers of parents and employees aren’t showing up for these important meetings (though I acknowledge the small percentage who are involved in every decision). Maybe the time isn’t convenient. Maybe we don’t believe that our input will be valued—I have personal experience with that. Or maybe we just don’t care enough to tackle the real problem . . . and no new program will fix that.