Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Yo-Yo Constant

The entire day was a scheduling nightmare, rendering me virtually non-existent. Earlier, anticipated rain and swine flu cancelled our field trip, and in its place, my co-teachers compensated differently for the unexpected extra time with the kids. One team ran on the regular schedule, but the others shortened their classes, so when I finished with my third class, I arrived late to what would have been my ninth class, but was actually my fourth class, and was then released to what should have been my third class, but which actually wouldn't happen until after lunch. Nobody I was supposed to be with was actually anywhere, so I had lunch. Then headed to lunch duty, where all expected attendees actually appeared. Let no one doubt the constant power of lunch.

Today, like many days, we waited for the gym teacher to show up late and rather unenthused, so I was telling my professional life story to a kid who had, in fact, asked.

"Did you go to college?"
"Which college?"
"Ohhh, really, Northwestern? Oooh, well, what classes?"
"Comparative Politics, really?"

Why I didn't say, "Seventeenth Century Slavic Sodomy Techniques," I can't say. With each answer I increased both the honest and bitter tones, hoping he'd leave me alone, but it continued until one kid finally asked,

"So if you went to such a good school, um, why are you, like, here?"

He’ll learn. It's not where you go, it's where YOU go.

Why was I here? At least it was a nice day, and one of the kids had brought a Yo-Yo to gym class. I watched him flounder a bit, trying to sleep it, and immediately traveled back in memory-time to sophomore year in high school. For us cool theater kids, the thing to do was play with a Yo-Yo. Man, did I practice. So I asked the kid if I could play his yo-yo, flung it around a few times, and untangled the string. I told them about my sensory memory moment and our glory days. The Yo-Yo's owner decides to impress me with his knowledge.

"Did you know the yo-yo, in ancient times, was used as a hunting implement?" He asked.

I made it sleep again, and I did an around-the-world, when a kid asked if I could do the Eiffel Tower.

"You mean, the triangle thing, like this?" I replied.

After I walked away, another kid, trying to do the around-the-world, said, "Mr. Bilsky is the coolest."

How tightly I clung to that a few minutes later when the frisbee-tossing kids counted up for a game of Ultimate, but left me out.

After lunch, and gym class, my shortened-class colleagues had previously decided to wrap-up our day (and our Holocaust unit) with a screening of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Talk about finding yourself in the ultimate wrong place... One of our students, who in particular has issues with racism and behavior, didn't have his permission slip to see the film, claiming he'd already seen (and hated) it, and expressed the strong desire (supported by one of his teachers earlier in the week) to work on his genocide awareness project, about which he finally cared.

I wanted to step in and resolve the issue, take him to the lab and set him to work, saving everyone the headache, but because I wasn't sure if I was supposed to be in my now third period class, watching their genocide awareness presentations, I didn't press the matter. I went to my other class, where students didn’t notice I attended, while he was forced to stay and watch. I rejoined them all for the latter hour of the film. During the last five minutes, while half the room watched the end in stunned, teary silence; he yawned, grunted, and commented overtly about how stupid it was. If only I’d had the power to go back in time and speak up, I could have saved my colleagues the forty-five minutes of their lives that they wasted bemoaning his reaction.

All in all, I didn't know who or where I was supposed to be at any given part of the day. Except in gym, where I was completely unneeded. I'm never really needed in gym; in fact, on the days the one student I shadow is absent, the teacher waves me off entirely. As if I were insane to actually want to stay.

So I’m home, after the kids are in bed, exploring beer-TV pairings. I’ve watched two consecutive episodes of LOST exploring time travel. This week's episode, “Follow the Leader,” shifted back-and-forth in time while Jack and Kate debate about where/when they belong and whether they can and should change their lives. Then, last season's "The Constant," wherein Desmond jumps back-and-forth in time desperately seeking his "constant" - a familiar person in an unfamiliar future. Fits the day’s displacement nicely.

Afterward, I surf cable, landing on Journey to the Center of the Earth, starring Brendan Fraser. I arrived into the movie about 37 minutes in, when to win over his skeptical, newly-arrived nephew, he opens a box of his (dead?) brother's possessions, and pulls out a Yo-Yo. Trying to impress the kid, Uncle Yo-yo does some tricks, talks about physics, centrifugal force, and potential energy and says,

"Did you know, in ancient times, hunters used the yo-yo as a hunting implement?"

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