The Losers and the Sardine

(This occurred early in 2014)

Thursday morning’s algebra class rearranged their seats, to either sit by themselves or touch desks with their best buddies.

One boy sits like a happy sardine, totally trapped between his two cronies, chatting and laughing when class starts—loss for him and his buddies.  He rudely interrupts the teacher with rabbit-chasing questions, while she tries to read the school bulletin—loss for teacher’s management capabilities and class etiquette in general.  He sees a girl behind him opening up a cold bottle of chocolate milk and asks the teacher’s permission to go out for a drink of water.  He leaves to buy a cold bottle of chocolate milk, which would not have been permitted, if he’d asked for it instead of water.  Both bottles of milk are ignored, or are permitted, by the teacher—loss, because of school rules being both ignored and flaunted (only water is allowed in classrooms).

Sardine student chats and laughs louder and louder with his buddies—loss for them and the rest of us, who can’t hear the teacher well.  The teacher makes several big errors in her instruction of numbers because of the noise—loss for her and students.  

I finally burst out and order the three sardines to separate their desks and be quiet—loss for me, because I’m only the Para, a bug on the wall of school life.  Sardines comply unwillingly, and I stick to my guns—loss for teacher’s pride and loss for disturbing the class.  

As teacher continues to teach, Sardine continues to chat with now distant buddies in whispers.  I bite my tongue.  But, on the plus side, Sardine is able to answer a couple of questions from the teacher, so the move I made helped–one small gain for him and for the rest of us, which lasts about five minutes.

Then Sardine yawns loudly and tries to move closer to one of his buddies, but I make him move away, again—loss for everybody, again.  I angrily think, Should I be in class tomorrow? No, it’s better if I stay home, sick—loss for me; I’m not paying attention to the teacher.

Sardine manages to silently and sneakily edge his desk closer to a buddy, but I let it go, as long as they stay quiet. It’s not my class.

Teacher announces one more example for learning the solving and graphing systems for equations, but Sardine loudly complains, Aren’t we done yet? When is class over anyway? Teacher finally tells him to be quiet, but he rudely laughs silently, not paying attention.  How do we all get through this miserable day?  One loss at a time, I guess.

Teacher finally gives the class three questions to do for homework, which can be done in class, but Sardine bursts out with, How are we supposed to do the homework when we don’t understand what’s going on?  I burst back with, You were not listening to the lesson, nor were you taking notes, so it’s your problem, not anyone else’s!

He shut up


the bell rings

All the losers move on to the next ordeal.



A Judging Perspective


Have to sit in a junior high math classroom, for an hour and a half, to judge pairs of Duet Actors. Could be at home watching TV or working on hobbies, but I’m here alone, in a student’s desk, staring at whiteboards, massive encouragement posters, desks, carpeting.

Movements and foot-treads rustle and boom as people walk in the hallway or perform forensically in front of other judges nearby.

Spend time reading a book, taking swigs of water, getting up and doing exercise windmills, toe touching, leg stretches.

Forty-five minutes snail away, with my sighs, wiggling feet, thinking about the upcoming Easter break.

Muffled conversations, laughter, come and go in the hall.

Ask myself, how would I decorate the room if I were the teacher? and have colorful spiral hangings from the ceiling, when suddenly—a duet finally arrives!

How exciting! Can’t let on, though!

Windy Competitions


What a trip! With a blurred vision horizon, dust smackling hard against the windows, a blue sky only visible straight above (like through a tunnel), and tumbleweeds flying by the hundreds across the road, catching and scraping underneath the bus, or slapping like rocks into its side. My iPod volume is way over the safe decibel level. I turn it off. The wind shoves the bus around violently, roughing it up like the football team slamming repeatedly against the opposing team. I call my husband to let him know I love him, just in case the bus tips over or I end up in Oz.

Then I notice the coach, Miss D, ignoring it all like she’s in her living room, eating a sandwich, texting avidly, and relaxing behind the driver and his huge front window; a window that just invites someone to use it as a sudden exit. Keeping my eyes on Miss D, enough of her confidence gradually oozes over in my direction, steadily easing me into breathing deep and enjoying the free wild ride to a Forensics Tournament.

Arriving at the tournament safely, almost two hundred students compete against each other with words—rather like the wind storm outside competing against the crazy humans running between the school buildings to reach their contest rooms, and competing against the buildings and trees. Guess what? The humans win!

The Voices



on voices

over voices under voices

Roaring waterfall

Cataracts falling in never ending waves

bubbling happily excitedly laughingly

living alive

breathing noise in

breathing noise out

Deafening cacophony

Hundreds of students

jammed in a school cafeteria

waiting for final Forensic scores

with clapping sprees, group table drum sessions

laughter whistles talking whoops

yells and tries at cheering

visiting making friends renewing friends

Adults yawn,

smiling at the excitement

at the end of a grueling meet

looking forward to a long drive home