Cleaning Out

I keep blowing my nose. Wet, snotty, and gross, I go through two and three tissues at a time. My wife says I'm getting the cold out of me, purging myself of the virus. I'm not so sure, but the alternative is to sniff or let it drip, so I blow my nose and blow my nose hoping she is right. I have to clean it out of me one way or another.

In my classroom I saw a stack of folders and paper on one shelf, more piled atop the filing cabinet, and still more near my desk. I picked up the first stack and began filing. Half of it went into the recycling bin (which I'm pretty sure gets dumped into the garbage, but what can you do?). I did that stack, the one on the filing cabinet, and the one near my desk. I pulled old files out of the filing cabinet and cleared two shelves behind my desk. The recycling bin is chock full as is the garbage can. The room is a little bit cleaned out.

My plan at the end of June was to simply walk away from the classroom. I don't have much there anyway. All my things fit in my messenger bag. I'll wipe the computer drive, close blinds, lock the door, and leave the keys. Stuff on the wall will stay. The books will remain shelved in the classroom library. Student computers will lie dormant. Old textbooks, unused in my nine years there, will continue to gather dust. My standing desk will remain up on cinder blocks. I didn't think I would clean out much of anything.

Today I did more cleaning out than expected and it felt good. I got rid of things written by students no longer attending the program. I purged ancient curricula and threw away the three-ring binders in which they have slumbered for a decade. And that was that. There isn't much else to clean out. I still have forty days of work there that I'll ride out like the cold lodged in my nose and lungs. Time is the only thing that will make it better, but every so often it makes sense to clean things out, blow my nose, and try to breathe more clearly. That way I walk out of this place at the end rather than running or, heaven forbid, striking a match and setting the bridge on fire.

Already I'm kind of walking away and where I'm going is becoming clearer with every bit of cleaning I do inside and out.

College Costs & Ideas

I was lucky and made some good decisions about college. The lucky part is I failed out of Clarkson. Three semesters there cost just over $21,000, a paltry figure today but overwhelming then. I had a grant or two and my parents absorbed the majority of the bill. God bless 'em. On the way home from failing out with all my stuff in the back of the station wagon, I sat nervously waiting for Dad to go off on me. Instead, he said, "the next school is on you."

So it was. I went to Onondaga Community College for two semesters, total cost $1,340. I paid out of pocket. Then I paid for SUNY Oswego without incurring much more debt, maybe a couple thousand dollars. I got into a graduate school that, for one out-of-state student (me!), waived tuition and gave me a teaching fellowship that allowed me to make money while attending full time. Within five years of graduation I had paid it all off.

My kids shouldn't have to depend on luck and penny-pinching. It's in everyone's best interests that children be educated and come out of school as something more than indentured servants.

Elizabeth Warren is talking about debt forgiveness. She'll be labeled whacko for that (Americans can't allow women to voice ideas without first belittling the women and the ideas) but the idea makes sense. College and university have become ludicrously expensive and not because professors and adjuncts make so much money. The system is broken and needs a radical fix.

I'm suspicious of free college tuition. I was more engaged when my money was involved and tuition is only a fraction of total costs. I don't have the solutions, so I'll vote for someone who is thinking well about them. Elizabeth Warren is talking the talk so far. I'm listening.

Let Go

There are things beyond my control. One is that of the four kids in my alternative school class, none were able to keep their heads off the desks and eyes open. All four passed out. This sort of thing can drive me crazy.

After all, I'm the teacher and supposed to get them learning, doing something. I tried, but they were just unwilling and one even began to get angry. None of us need that. I backed off. I let go.

It's the first day after break and none of them made it wholly back to school. So it goes. I had plans for today and was actually excited about them. That we didn't do them is disappointing and would have been infuriating if I hung onto the story I had in mind as to how class would proceed.

Instead, I let it go and I'm content.

For years I tried to let go of the frustration at this job. I did pretty well and got through years which could have been unbearable. For that relief I'm grateful and today, for one hour, it was better to let go than go into frustration.

What else can I let go so that I focus on what matters and where I can make a difference?


I didn't seem to do much this week off from school. Usually we travel to family in Florida. Usually by the night before school I'm run-down and dreading going back. Usually there has not been much rest. Some things are different this time. I still don't want to go back to school, but that's an entirely different matter and I'm not really dreading it. We traveled but to colleges instead of warm locales. And the night before school I'm run-down but it's from a persistent cold instead of from running around.

Basically we did less and it really did feel like more.

I'm typing this from our living room couch. This is where I have spent most of this week off. I've read books, magazines, and some online stuff. I've avoided most of the news, haven't turned on the television or logged into Netflix. Other than traveling to the colleges, I haven't spent a thing.

I've also spent most of every day in the company of my family. Nothing beats that.

My mother took care of our dog while we were away and baked us cookies. My brother had a birthday and helped my daughter find props for a photo shoot. My wife took care of me. My daughters made me smile. The dog was her always lovely self. The cats took turns lying on me to make me feel better.

Less really is more. This is what I'm trying to remember. This is what I'm trying again, over and over, to learn.

The culture keeps selling more. The soul needs less.