Friday, September 21, 2007

Cruising Altitude

A new update, finally, to this blog, and thanks for reading it. I am just teaching away at Enloe High School with a primo schedule filled with eager German students, all day. It is an excellent job. I transitioned nicely enough, and I welcome the challenges inherent in teaching 5 different levels of German for the first time, full-time. I was told by colleagues that my previous 14 years at Southern Durham High School would rapidly recede into a foggy memory as I become entrenched at my new school, but they haven't. Not a day goes by without thinking about the halcyon days at Southern. I got along great with the kids there, and the teachers and administrators, but on the whole, the environment at Spartanland was chaotic, loud, brash and ultimately grating on the nerves. Someone needs to a write a book, a memoir, about Southern Durham, and maybe one day I will.

Other things going on, oh, why not, I'll mention the new DVD I picked up, about my old friend Frank Zappa. Not a personal acquaintance, mind you, just his music and monstrous creative genius exacting my aesthetic tendencies. This particular media event profiles his two early-mid 1970s records, Apostrophe(`) and Overnite Sensation. Now, there is some fantastic music on both these records and I would recommend them to anyone interested into first-rate orchestral rock, but some indecent imagery on one song in particular makes the pair of classic recordings a mature person-only affair. And even that song is a funky, soulful masterpiece that presages the emergence of rap/hip-hop lyrical delivery styles by 5 or 6 years. The sheer musicianship is astounding, and it's a minor miracle that such proficient players took part in Frank's absurdist compositional sensibilities. So there, I recommend the Classic Albums Series documentary on Frank Zappa's twin outing, Overnite Sensation and Apostrophe(`) You can buy it direct from

Monday, September 3, 2007

New School Year, New School

After 14 years teaching German and a variety of other subjects at Southern Durham High School, I begin a new school year plying my trade at a new high school, Enloe High School, in Raleigh. I started last week, earlier than intended, and what an eye opener it has been. You must understand: I have only taught at one school, Southern High, and that was my yardstick of what a modern urban high-school was like. How they are run, how the students behave, the curriculum, athletics, and everything else, all these attributes of Southern's peculiar culture and evolution informed my view of high-school. So anything other than Southern was doomed to the inevitable comparisons.

Now I'll try to avoid the comparisons and say this: my years at Southern have been a rewarding and challenging experience of ups and downs and successes and frustrations, but on the whole, I made an impact there, and the school has made an impact on my psyche as well. I'll miss my colleagues in the Foreign Language Department, all of them, and the other teachers as well. I found them all to be a mostly caring and professional faculty, and I was honored to be a part of it all those crazy years. Southern had that reputation, but I ignored it mostly, and focused on how to keep the kids focused on higher learning. Difficult task at a school struggling with a history of low achievement and rising ruffian visibility. The kids there, despite their generally socially obtuse collective demeanor, are a deserving lot who need talented teachers just like any other group of teenagers in the Triangle's public high-schools. So Best Wishes, Southern High School! I'll see you at graduation.

My position at Enloe entails a day-long spell of teaching only German, and that I find thrilling and rewarding. No more Computer Programming, which had become at Southern a bit of a drag on me, for various reasons. Teaching at Enloe is really a dream gig for me, and I am going to run with it. The kids at Enloe seem eager and polite and positive, characters and individuals with a sense of humor and a sense of what a school's mission is. I am stoked about it. Go Eagles! Go Spartans! See ya!