The true story of a new college grad in debt to the federal government who made a deal to serve/teach in an underprivileged area for a year.  He signed on to teach in the Inuit village of Kugluktuk, northern most territory of Canada. He bit off way more than he could chew.

The suicide rate there, especially in that Eskimo village, was the highest in all of North America.  Kids didn’t attend school and when they did, no one did homework assignments.  Families were starving, women suffered spousal abuse by husbands who were kidnapped as children and placed in residential schools, suffering extensive abuse.  Alcohol and drug abuse was rampant and out of control.  Self esteem were unrecognized words for these students and death was their next door neighbor.

The new teacher could have packed it in a zillion times, but he stuck it out:  Student loan was huge and non-negotiable.  He had been a LaCross star at his ivy league school, would jog every morning with his ‘stick’ “Suzy”, his ‘girlfriend’.

A better idea flashed one morning… Start a lacrosse club.  In the beginning he was the laughing-stock, but when kids began to see they excelled at this sport, the neophyte’s idea gathered steam.  The classroom seats got filled up.  Assignments were accomplished with shining grades.  When a vacancy occurred during morning roll call, the reply was, “he’s not coming back.”  That student had blown his brains out with a shotgun.

Having taught high school art for 18 years total, in the New York City School System, Jamaica, Queens, Springfield Gardens, Ocean Hill Brownsville , Brooklyn… Subbed in myriad schools across Brooklyn, Queens… Taught three years at Westbury HS where the first period art class had 100% new students in the first three months after the year began due to transitory families moving in and out constantly, worked other sundry schools in Suffolk county partial positions, subbed all over Nassau and Suffolk counties… moving to south Florida in 2002, I landed at Coconut Creek HS in 2004-05 school years, after driving 100 miles a day subbing up in West Palm Beach all of 2003.  Creek had 2600 students.  80% of them read on level 1-2 out of 6 levels.  Half of them got free lunch, which was pretty much Army surplus food.

Creek had the singular acclaimed honor of rating ‘F’ on standardized test scores, from the company the Bush family owned in Texas (there they called the test ‘TCat’.  In Florida, where Jeb Bush was governor, they called them ‘FCat’.)  Four principals in eight years… the last one was boinking his secretary, both of them transferred together, again (they were also together in the school they were in before Creek) into an ‘A’ rated school; being personal friends with the Superintendent, didn’t hurt… on the last day of school, in June of 2011, I heard through students (I had just retired) that his going away gift was a student food fight in the main lobby, directed at the principal.  The ‘A’ rated principal had the esteemed honor of getting shoveled into the ‘F’ rated Creek.  Ever hear of the TV show Schitt’s Creek?  This was Shit’s Creek!

My supervisor was boinking the school patrol officer, as reported in gossip around the building, when teachers would walk by her office on their way to the teachers work room on the second floor, hearing the two of them going at it.

My resume happened to be on her desk when I landed my first full time job since moving to Florida late in 2002.  From that point she was always my supervisor:  A bully who loved lording herself over me, a measly art teacher.  Funny, because she had been an art teacher also, with an eye to get out of the classroom!  In 2007 the school hired another art teacher, who happened to have been her art student.  He didn’t have one education college credit, just a BA degree.  All the qualified applicants got passed over because of nepotism.  He got the best room that should have been mine… even after I had suggested moving my classes into the original room upstairs designed for art classes, moving me from the downstairs room half it’s size.  I was scoffed off as a ridiculous idea.  Then the ‘kid’ (my son’s age) was hired.

With my MS masters’ degree in School District Administration, plus 45 more grad credits and years of teaching experience, I was passed over… a consistent trend of this administrator.  By the time 2010 rolled around, I was given 30 more students a day in my classes – the equivalent of an extra class, and no art budget.  The new kid, there in his third year, in the same room (I was moved three times) got $8,000 in new art material for his kids.  How do I know that?  The art supply store sent me copies of invoices, all the evidence needed.

It was a hideous situation.  All around.  But you know what?  Iron sharpens iron.  Street smart kids flocked to my authenticity, straight shooting manner of respecting their individuality, their God-given unique quality no one could replace (I promised them the first day of class I would prove they were irreplaceable)… blasting open their sense of self-esteem when they experienced excellence in themselves in a classroom sanctuary unlike any other in the brick and mortar building.  Kids that cut other classes came to mine.  Stuff oozed out of them they never knew they possessed.  And they became dear to me.  So dear, that the entire first year of retirement, not one mark of artwork emanated forth from me.  It was then I understood how much those kids, the 1-2 reading level kids, the honors kids, the special ed kids, the invisible in the rest of the building kids, motivated my own sensibilities to create.  Every art project I put forth to them, I worked on alongside with them, as they worked, as the example.  They got to witness and experience how every student’s project was unique even though they all got the identical sheet of instructions.

Watching GRIZZLIES brought that all back.  How endeared those Creek kids were to me.  How all the kids I worked with had an undeniable essence and energy only teenagers possess.  How that segment of life passes on never to return and I had the privilege of making a huge difference in their lives; assisting them to expand their consciousness, the way they saw their often bleak neighborhood…  Even when I subbed… including the times during retirement, after leaving Florida for Asheville and had to go back to work to make ends meet… I made a vow to be the difference in a kids life that day.

I went through hell, somehow attracting the art teaching jobs no one else would accept, in low level high schools, with crappy administrations. Kind of like the ivy league kid that paid off his college loan teaching in a deprived village in Alaska. I learned the hard way, looking back now, that, even at the time thinking ‘why was it was all happening to me, when all along, it was happening for me… making me the one I have become and am becoming.

Anyone… I said ANYONE who criticizes me in any way shape or form, about the words I use to speak, about the spiritual path I have chosen or has chosen me… anyone judging me, calling me out from the ‘satanic (I swear they keep saying that) path’ I am on, blowing around following any wind of doctrine out there… Who the hell do they think they are to judge me?  With all I have been through during my 75+ years?  And I haven’t even uttered the mental and emotionally abusive marriage I survived for 22 years.  That’s another chapter!

Thank you GRIZZLIES.  Here’s the bottom line:  The ones who consistently judged me would have reacted this way when the GRIZZLIES returned from the team’s first competition, after losing every game:  “You wasted thousands of dollars and wasted our time.  What disappointments you are.”  The team only scored one goal, motivated by honoring the teammate that hung himself the night before they left for the competition in Toronto.  Me?  I wept when I saw the entire village greet the team… the kids that got supported because they weren’t abusing alcohol and drugs anymore.  The kids that went to school and finished assignments with pride.  The kids that had each other’s back.  The family they had become.  The eight foot sign held high by parents.  Each kid debarked the small plane stretching their arms to the sky, whooping with a victorious shout… The sign that read

“Welcome home to the highest scoring LaCross team

this village has ever had!”









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