Tag Archives: St. Clement School

dan , you don’t belong here

Well , I promised a post about a mouse at a faculty meeting at St. Clement School so long ago , but I have to say right up front that the incident did not involve a real mouse . I had drawn a cartoon mouse on a rectangle of cardboard. The mouse was leaving a table ( not a faculty meeting ) around which several cartoon figures sat . There was a dialog bubble over the mouse saying : ” Dan , you don’t belong here .”

I’m Dan , so I was the mouse . Don’t read too much into that .

There was a time when I was experimenting with drawing cartoon figures . Around that cartoon table on the piece of cardboard were all of the faces that I was able to draw at the time . And the mouse , yes .  Why a mouse ? We won’t have time to hire a shrink to examine that question and to wait for her/his report . Sorry . We will just have to move along . I later took a silk screen course at Barnsdale Park in Hollywood during which I silk-screened three blind mice ; but that’s part of the psychological report we won’t have time to wait for here .

I had the idea that other teachers at the school  might get interested in cartooning , too . Kids like drawing cartoons . St. Clement was an elementary school . Maybe I could eventually get teachers interested in some kind of a school-wide project , so I quietly put my cardboard cartoon high on a wall in the school office , just above the faculty restroom . I suppose that I thought of it as a subtle inspiration  that might spark some interest among  other teachers . There were only eight of us , and we all got along pretty well.st cems school

I wasn’t getting any feedback about my secretly posted cartoon . No one mentioned it at all . And then , after a couple of  days , it disappeared . I asked the school secretary if she knew what had happened to it . She said she didn’t. 2 mice cartoon

A day or so later the school principal asked me at the end of the school day to step into her office . When I walked in she walked over behind me with pronounced solemnity and closed her office door . She then walked past me again and back behind her principal’s desk . She  pointed to a chair on  my side of the desk , a  front -and-center  -placed chair , and told me to sit down . She told me to sit down as if she were addressing a child , or an underling , with a formality that we ordinarily didn’t use at St. Clement School . So I was immediately on my guard , you know , waiting .

She pulled my cartoon on cardboard out of the drawer of her desk , held it high over her head with both of her hands , showing it to me ,  sort of in the classic Moses -with- the- Ten -Commandments  stance .  She glared at me and said in  a stern tone    ” What is this ?”

I knew that tone from childhood . Very familiar . Power -of -the -Parent tone . So I considered any response carefully for a moment or so .

A trick question ?  Maybe she was mad that I had posted the thing in the office area without her permission ?   But , there didn’t seem to be any question about what it was , so why is she asking such a  question ? I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck rising .

She continued to hold the thing over her head , figuratively over my head , as the question floated in the ether unanswered , suspended in the static uneasy tension of her office .

” It’s a cartoon , ” I said weakly , almost as if it were a question . I was confused .

She still held it over her head.   ” I recognize some of the people , but not all of them , ” she said .

Some of the people ? Now I was worried about her sanity .  What people , I wondered . Was I witnessing first -hand her mental breakdown ?

” This is me , ” she said , pointing at one of the figures around the cartoon table .  ” And this is Reynold . ”   She pointed at particular cartoon figures on the cardboard .  ” And this , I guess , is Kathy .”   Reynold was our vice principal . Kathy was one of the teachers .

” They’re nobody , ” I said . I tried to keep my voice calm ; soothing . ” They’re just random cartoon figures .” It was the truth .

” And I don’t know about some of the others , ” she continued . ” That’s probably Steve .”

” They’re nobody , ” I said . ” They’re just cartoons . Those are the only faces I know how to draw . ”  I briefly told her my idea for a school-wide cartoon drawing project , but  she wasn’t listening .

” You can leave my office now ! ” she said .

And that was that . I still have that cartoon somewhere in my garage . Now that I’m thinking of it , maybe that mouse was right , after all . Anyhow , I quit cartooning after that , but that consequence was purely coincidental .

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you can’t fire me ; I quit !

Let’s see . To jog my memory :

1. Town -Talk Cafe (quit)

2. Mrs. Kay’s (fired) ( …..but then rehired)

3. Salem Recycling (fired)

4. St. Clement School ( well……)

5. C & R Clothiers (quit)

6 Virgil Middle School ( well………)

In general , a person probably should have been fired from a job and/or quit a few in order to really be a well-rounded individual . Of course , I’m a little biased . I’ll admit that .

I’ve been mulling-over first  writing about , to begin this fired/quit theme ,  my exit from St. Clement School . That’s the first school where I’ve taught and I put my heart into it for five years . My exit was not the one I might have wished for ; but , hey , not only is it it is what it is , but in retrospect my  experience makes a far better story than if I had just quietly left .  As that Welsh poet said : Do not go gentle into that good night .

I guess that I might have a touch of that Welshman’s soul seeped somewhere into my blood . This theory ( which , by the way , I just came up with) is solidly based  on fact . Well , alternative fact , in the spirit of our  time . Well , fantasy , perhaps , imagination , or folk tale reality , at least .

I should explain .

At some critical point in history , the Welsh  had mobilized an army to invade Ireland . Whether my relatives were living in Ireland at that early date yet or not I don’t know . Some of them , I suspect ( with absolutely no evidence —- again , though , good enough for our specific time in history  , it seems )  were hanging out in icy Viking lands  and  some others perhaps in Iberia  . They wouldn’t even have had their eyes yet set on Hibernia by that early time , I’m sure .

But let’s move on .

The Irish clan chieftains of the time of the Welsh invasion were not prepared militarily for such an event .  Councils were held and the chieftains were considering surrender . Maybe they could make a deal with those pesky  Welsh . Time was running out and disaster was bivouacked right there on the Irish shore . What to do ?

Well , when you got nothing you got nothing to lose , so you do the  ‘Hail Mary’ play .  We call it the Hail Mary play now , but this ancient Ireland was not yet Christian . St. Patrick  had not yet been born , or enslaved , or whatever other experiences had brought him to Ireland to pick shamrocks and frighten snakes and to make Ireland the Holy Ground ( lasting until , of course , this new era of the scandalous priesthood and all that kind may have  ruined the ‘holy’  part a bit  ) .POLAND JUNE 2017 Willie,etc. 526

So the Druids , as I remember the story , ( probably remembering it wrong ! ) came up with a pretty good strategy to counter those aggressive Welsh armies camped on the Irish beaches . They told the Irish leaders that they would turn the Irish armies into mice .

Mice ? , you say . Yes . The mice would then head for the beaches and eat up all of the Welsh food supplies . An army travels on it’s stomach , as we know .

And so they did that and the Welsh had no food in the morning to feed a hungry army — not a speck of bara brith or rarebit remained . Their commanders considered the supply situation and decided to sail back to Wales to think this invasion thing over a little while longer .

The Irish soldiers were transformed into men again that morning . The Irish culture is good at the transforming thing : geese into people , people into salmon . It gets a little tricky on Halloween ( Samhain ) when actual people merely pretend to transform into odd creatures ; but we won’t go into that here .

In fact , this is not a post about Halloween , or the Irish , or most of the stuff  that  I’ve written about so far . This is a post about getting fired ( …….well…….) from St. Clement School , way back when I began my teaching career , but now I don’t think I have time to tell the story . I keep my posts short and to the point , in order not to bore or confuse my readers ( if I have any readers left ) . Dandy man

Let me just say that I began teaching at the next school immediately after St. Clement . The principal there walked me around , showing me the school grounds , discussing the teaching job I would be doing  , for about twenty minutes until she said , eventually , kind of off-handedly : ” I suppose that I’ll be getting an excellent recommendation from your former principal . ”

” Well , no you won’t , ” I said , ” and here’s why .”   Then I told her the whole story .

She hesitated twenty seconds or so . I think that she had , during that walk-around interview , already taken my measure , so-to-speak .  ” I admire your honesty , ” she said , and she hired me on the spot .

As I write this I wonder what that recommendation , if one ever was written and sent , really looked like .

And now what comes to mind as I write this is an incident with that same former principal at St. Clement which involves a mouse at the faculty meeting . Let’s do that one in my next post .

 

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Nicky and Armando

This is a Saint Clement school story , the gone-now Catholic school in Venice, CA , where I began my teaching career . Another one of those deeply – stored memories popped up as I was walking in my neighborhood .  Why do these memories emerge at any particular moment ?  Does a sound similar  to one I’d heard during the event trigger it , or a fragrance ?  You know :  sense memory .  What was it that old Ebenezer Scrooge suggested  ? Was it :   ” You may be an undigested bit of beef , a blot of mustard , a crumb of cheese , a fragment of underdone potato ……..”   Do ghosts  of the past arise from a slight  stomach cramp , a touch of indigestion ?  Whatever . Here it is .

I remember sitting behind the Principal’s desk talking to Nicky’s mom . Her other son , Armando , was standing behind her . The issue was Nicky’s lethargic attitude toward schoolwork . Nicky was a student in my fourth grade class . Maybe I could get his mother involved . Maybe she could help.

This woman sitting across the desk from me was not the Nicky’s mother whom I had been talking to all year about Nicky’s progress in my class , not the Nicky’s mom who showed up for school Open House days , and report card conferences , and school events . Not the same woman .one xx 16

I asked this new woman , of course , about my slight conundrum .  ” I’m Nicky’s mom .  ”    Well , then , who’s the other woman who said she’s Nicky’s mom ?  ” That’s my mother .”    This mom  was already irritated .  Body language said  :  how dare you even ask !  Was she glaring at me ?  Armando had his arms crossed across his chest , legs straight and feet spread apart . Dark shades covered his eyes and a bandanna folded just right was tied around his shaved head . His long flannel shirt was buttoned at the neck , open wide lower down .  No doubt that Armando was glaring . He was mommy’s backup . He was there for moral support , I guess , and to jump in if a fight erupted .  He could have been hired as an extra in a street gang movie with that look , only he wasn’t acting a part . Armando was shot and killed at a local gas station a year or so after that . The police called it : gang related .

Anyway.

I decided to approach a discussion about Nicky’s lack of academic achievement by emphasizing the fact that he never , ever , turns in homework . I know , I know —– homework ?  Shouldn’t we be talking about more serious issues ?  But , I was trying .

Just-out-of-prison-mother was assuring me that she always helped Nicky with his homework . Oh , yeah , she had just got out of prison . I didn’t know that at the time . Her body language said : how dare you say my boy  doesn’t do homework !  But , he’s never turned it in ,  I insisted .  ” Not true ,” she told me . ”  If I don’t have a chance to help Nicky that day with  his homework  , then Armando helps him . ”    I looked up at Armando . I wondered if that tightly buttoned shirt pinched his neck . Armando was about sixteen . He had been kicked out of Saint Clement , I think , three or four years before that . To paraphrase a line from Cat On a Hot Tin Roof : I could smell the mendacity in that room .

cropped-girl-and-devils-poster-circus.jpg

I thought  :  Yeah right !  Armando is helping Nicky with his fractions . How is Armando with decimals ?  I told her again that , actually , Nicky has never turned in any homework assignment —- cards on the table .  I emphasized again that he was a very cooperative kid , her Nicky , very helpful , but that we needed to find a way to motivate him to study .

She got mad about the homework thing . She insisted that he was turning in homework . ” Well , I know all about you ! ” she said . ” I’ve heard what you do ! I’ve heard what goes on here . I know how you pull the kids around by the hair ……………”   It kinda went downhill from there .  Hair pulling wasn’t really one of my teaching methods . I forget now any other accusations .  She spit them out with rage .  I was , what , twenty-three , twenty-four ?  This was  new teaching territory for me .

I stood up calmly ;  had tried my best . ” This conference is over ” ,  I said , ” Thank you for coming ” ,  and I pointed to the office door . I had patience in those days . Armando stood firm , but followed his mother out when she decided to leave , she cursing as she went .

” Well , how’d it go ? ” the principal asked me later . Peachy . Just peachy .

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