Chuck Brooks' column: The View from my Room
I’m back. I warned you I would return, and I’m now making good on my promise. Had someone told me we would not only have off two weeks for the holidays, but the governor would give us a bonus day and our district would follow suit, I would have guffawed for hours.
Then it happened. Longest winter break on record. Oh so nice. Wonderful time to recharge. January has so many distractions for us here at school with “data day” and “flex day” and registration distractions for next year and another day off for Martin Luther King Day and conferences that my least favorite month should fly by in no time.
January is simply unpleasant. If you agree, raise your hand.
However, you’re likely reading this on Jan. 16 or later, and that means the month is half over. The days are growing, albeit slowly, longer. There’s already talk of spring training for baseball in a month. When we begin talking about registering kids for next year’s classes, we know we’ve gotten across the first major mountain of the year. The next one on the horizon will be spring break. From that point forward, it’s a “hang on cuz it’s going to be a bumpy ride” to June.
January is also the month when my gig as basketball announcer for guys’ and girls’ games becomes a factor in quiet nights at homes versus not so much. It’s something I’ve chosen to do these last four or five years. Is it the burning desire to leave a warm home to jump into a cold car and walk through a cold parking lot, only to do the same once the game is over? Nah. Is it the fact that I won’t have a microphone in my hand until May if I don’t do some announcing before then? Nah. Is it the incredible money the job brings in for me? Nah. Then what is it?
I have no clue. Why does anyone climb a mountain? To say they can? Perhaps, but I don’t think so. Actually, it’s sort of fun. I’ve believed for my entire career that to be as successful as possible, a teacher really needs to see kids outside of the classroom and vice-versa. I’ve lived my career by that philosophy. I think I expected it of my teachers, even, when I was a kid in high school. What a clever cue for a story.
In tenth grade, I had Biology. I hated science classes. I was as thick as molasses when it came to comprehending the material in any of my high school science classes, but it started with Mr. Jackson’s Biology class in tenth grade. Mr. Jackson was the school’s tennis coach as well. He was probably around 5’9”. Maybe shorter. He was definitely a confident guy. Maybe too much so. When we’re kids, we can’t always see the forest for the trees, but when I think about it now, he may have felt the need to overcompensate in one area for the shortage in another.
In any case, the man liked to pick on me. I have always been a target for good-natured ribbing. I was once told I make myself a target. I guess I’d maybe agree on some level to that observation. One day in class, Mr. Jackson and I were having one of our infamous exchanges the class had come to expect. I felt the need to drop the gauntlet for whatever it was he had said to me. I challenged him to a bowling tournament on a Saturday morning. In front of the entire class. It was awesome. He accepted. We invited the rest of the class to come watch. If memory serves me, a number of them did. Game on!
I was fairly cocky about this challenge because I was a good bowler. I was in a league, and my average was around 180. I didn’t think he stood a chance. As it turned out, he didn’t. I made mincemeat out of the man. However, it was fun. For both of us as well as the kids who came to observe. When class convened on Monday, I was allowed to bring the news to the kids in the room. That’s when “what goes around, comes around” hit. He challenged me to a tennis match. I didn’t even own a tennis racket. I was dead in the water. I accepted because I had no choice. It was ugly. No one came to watch because I think they knew what the outcome would be. Mr. Jackson made me announce the results to the class the next day as I did the bowling results.
How I got here when I started talking about January is anyone’s guess, but I’ll let you draw from this what you will. My mind is still thawing from the days of bitter cold so forgive me for my randomness this week.
I wonder where next week will take me. Huh.
Chuck Brooks is a teacher at Rosemount High School.