Turn It Off - Phantogram (mp3)
Dial - School of Seven Bells (mp3)
As an educator, a father, and a spiritual seeker, I do not look for the worst in people or in situations, nor do I try and approach things naively or with unrealistic expectations. My approach is not unlike millions of others, who feel that experience and measured optimism are invaluable companions for all encounters.
But over the course of five straight hours this week, the petty clueless self-absorption of others became fairly cumbersome.
First it was a coworker.
Another administrator and I have been methodically moving forward and honing a plan to create some energy and idea generation in our departments. Due to budget constraints, we’ve all been fairly landlocked these past four years. No conferences, no school visits, nothing. So we pushed and got approval to plan several “summer field trips” where small groups would visit a series of schools over several days, and at the end of the summer, we’d have a day-long retreat where we compiled the experiences and ideas and pushed forward on our own paths to professional and program improvement.
The director of the other department is set to retire next spring. He has served our school loyally and well, and he is a fine man.
When it was clear that one school we needed to see was located in Massachusetts, he emailed us and suggested he should take this trip, that he should go alone, and that he could report his findings back to the team. Translation: he’d love to go to Massachusetts; he’d love to take his wife; he’d love to see the scenic Northeast, and he’d even visit the school since it would help pay for his fun trip.
I can think of no better way to build camaraderie, motivate a desire to improve, and create energy for an immobilized staff than for the boss to take the travel money, spend it, and come back to tell us all about his trip. Great idea. Can't believe I didn't think of that one.
My daughter was one of some 400+ students in the county recognized for her creative writing. Her captivating short story, “Cant Never Could” -- and yes, the apostrophe is intentionally missing because the main character’s name is Cant -- was selected. I don’t think we’ll be making it into a bestselling children’s book anytime soon. Not until BOTG gets one, anyway.
Roughly 1,200-1,500 teachers, parents, grandparents and students packed into a downtown venue for the event, and twice in the early stages, someone at the podium kindly reminded parents to turn off their cell phones and to, ha ha, also help the kids turn off theirs as well. Yet, within 30 minutes of that polite announcement, four cell phones had announced their proud existence to the masses, thanks to their impossible-to-ignore “unique” ringtones.
We hardly heard the keynote speaker, a rich woman who had recently self-published a children’s book, because three babies spent the entire time screaming. One woman actually carried her screaming baby all the way across the bottom of the stage as her other daughter walked across to get the award. Apparently her 2nd-grade child was incapable of walking across a stage without her guiding directions. Or maybe she was modeling her screamy child’s pink dress since we were all distracted by her anyway.
My child is not their problem. My child’s screams are permitted to interfere with or even ruin my night, because it’s my child. That’s the devil’s deal of parenting: screamy demons who frequently provide us heavenly joys.
But these screamy demons BELONG to someone specific. The rest of us didn’t ask for that child. Yet there we all are, having our dinners ruined, or unable to hear the speaker or preacher or performance, because your sweet precious snowflake in diapers is more important than the rest of us.
When I express intolerance about these issues and the levels of self-absorption and inconsiderateness required, it sends me through the roof. Not because I’m self-righteous, but rather because I know damn well just how self-absorbed I can be. I’m the Lightning McQueen of self-absorption, and if on the highway of selfishness I see other cars zooming past me at twice my speed when I’m already well past the speed limit, it’s bound to horrify me.
It’s worth noting that in all these examples -- the trip planning, the cell phones, the screaming demons -- for every self-absorbed poop face at the center of my focus, there were any number of people who weren’t in it merely for themselves, people capable of sympathizing with and caring about how the shoe might feel on the other foot.
And to those people, I salute you. The ability to share looks of indignation and impatience and mockery with you when we are pulled into these aggravating moments of someone else’s self-absorption is often the only thing that keeps me from going postal.