The transitional period.

The emotion that most binds us, one to the other, is empathy. I’m never more empathetic than when buying school supplies and recalling the mix of excitement and dread that accompanies every new school year. I remember my own little flip-outs in particular, how the supply sheet would say “scissors” and I would insist on new scissors.

“Last year’s scissors are fine,” my dad would say.

“No they’re not! The new scissors are supposed to have a sharp point, and those are rounded! Ahhhh!”

My dad wasn’t the empathetic sort and insisted on the old scissors, and he was right, no one cared. The progression from round- to sharp-pointed scissors seemed like a huge step to me; I still remember when we gave up wide-ruled notebook paper for the narrow variety — fourth grade — and when fat pencils were exchanged for standard ones. Wouldn’t you flip out if your dad was trying to make you carry last year’s scissors to school?

Middle school is, um, in the middle, and so are the school supplies — the fancy calculator and the colored markers. Kate’s nervous and so are her non-lying friends. I told her that if anyone hip-checks her into a locker she has my permission to hip-check back, but I’m told the school keeps sixth-graders more or less segregated from the rest of the student body, which combined with the so-called freshman academy movement, sort of raises the question: Why have these arbitrary divisions in the first place? Let’s go back to the parochial model — K-8, 9-12. And uniforms!

Anyway, school supplies. Three-ring binders, highlighters, marking pens, notebooks. Plus a new backpack with pink hearts and skulls-and-crossbones. ‘Cause that’s how my little girl rolls. My mom used to get excited in hardware stores, but for me, it’s Staples. Every ream of paper is an unwritten book.

Quick bloggage today, because apparently I have to spend the rest of the weekend shopping, too:

In the local papers, the story of what happens when prosecutors run amok. A supremely odd-looking former kindergarten teacher is finally free of charges he sexually assaulted two children at the school where he worked. The case stunk from the start, beginning with the alleged facts — that this teacher dragged two boys, ages 4 and 5, from a supervised lunch line at the school and into a classroom, where he forced them to perform oral sex, one after another, before returning them to the lunchroom.

Never mind that a newspaper’s investigation showed the classroom where all this supposedly happened was occupied at the time, and that this was something the official investigation somehow overlooked. Never mind that a doctor found no signs of abuse on either boy. Never mind that the prosecutor, a showboater of the first order, was giving interviews calling the teacher “a freak” and “a pedophile,” and revealing such details as this: That certain materials gathered at the teacher’s house, including the Harry Potter books and a video of “The Lion King,” constituted “non-erotic pornography,” and should be admitted as evidence of his guilt. (I don’t know what non-erotic pornography is, but I suspect it’s sort of like that non-wet water you can buy now.)

The tables are turned now: The prosecutor is up on ethics charges and the teacher is free, although at least one of the supposed victims’ mothers is hanging tough. You have to wonder what sort of prize she is, too.

I’ve known a few sexual-abuse victims in my life. They tell a variety of stories with common elements, mostly alcohol or drugs but always this: Someone they know. A parent or step-parent or mom’s boyfriend or Dad’s army buddy who’s sleeping on the couch for a few weeks until he gets his life back together. That’s not to say the smash-and-grab pedophile doesn’t exist; of course they do. But not many do it in their own workplace, in front of witnesses, two kids at a time and then go on about their business as if nothing ever happened. Just sayin’.

From the DetNews, a fire story with one of the best pieces of fire art, evahr:


Halp halp I iz being taken hoztej. And mah hare is a mesz.

Posted at 10:08 am in Uncategorized |

34 responses to “The transitional period.”

  1. Dorothy said on August 22, 2008 at 10:29 am

    That picture of the cat is just tremendous! I can’t stop laughing at your caption on it, either!

    I don’t need any binders or markers, but I’m starting school next week, too. My first ever college course, “Introduction to Theatre”, which starts on Thursday, four days before I turn 51. I am beyond excited.

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  2. John said on August 22, 2008 at 10:37 am

    Add a pencil thin mustache to James Perry and you get a John Waters look-a-like.

    This is not an opinion to his guilt nor an endorsement of his teaching skill, merely an observation.

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  3. Julie Robinson said on August 22, 2008 at 10:41 am

    How great for you, Dorothy–way to shake out the rust our 51 year old brains can accumulate. Back to school was always exciting for me, too. What a geek I was.

    I’d argue for going back to the “old parochial model”, as it was a great success for our kids, in an actual parochial school. The older kids get to be role models and mentors to the younger ones; from sitting together as chapel buddies, to tutoring, to showing kindness in the lunchroom or bathroom. They learn how to be leaders and the little ones learn from them. It beat the pants off my own miserable junior high experience.

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  4. Colleen said on August 22, 2008 at 10:41 am

    OOOO…I feel the same way about Staples….a bunch of supplies full of…of…POTENTIAL.

    I am starting school again on Monday, and will be buying my supplies over the weekend. Alas, I think I will not need a Pink Pearl….

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  5. LA Mary said on August 22, 2008 at 11:05 am

    Combining the fun of school supplies and going back to school as a geezer, the thrill going to art school AND buying art supplies wins hands down. Beautiful paper, boxes of pristine pastels, drawing pencils from 6B to 4H. Ooooh. Rapidographs.

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  6. deb said on August 22, 2008 at 11:08 am

    nance, wait until kate starts high school; the supply list virtually disappears. with a freshman and a senior, i spent less than ten bucks on school supplies this year, and most of that was notebooks. with coupon-clipping and savvy shopping at walgreens, i scored about a hundred pens and pencils for under a buck. and my boychildren care not a whit about decorating their lockers, so i don’t have to spend a dime on mirrors, magnets or any of that crap.

    i love office supply stores, too, but i was thrilled not to be lugging that damn supply list around all summer, watching for Fabulous Deals and trying to buy precisely what the list specified. i gave up on the latter years ago, though; why do they HAVE to have fiskars and crayolas? following the list in general but not to the letter was very liberating. i highly recommend it. spend the money you save on fun office supplies for yourself; they’ll last longer.

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  7. Catherine said on August 22, 2008 at 11:54 am

    The LOL Cats caption on that photo was perfect and fabulous. Just the right thing to get me out of the funk that was developing, thinking about who is truly a threat to kids vs. who we’d like to think is a threat. I start to fume when I read stranger-danger curricula for elementary school kids. How about acquaintance danger? And how about the fact that kids are much more likely to be physically abused than sexually abused — yet I don’t see Barney and his ilk too concerned about that. Ooops, I’m slipping into that funk.

    BTS supplies, much more pleasant topic. Earning the highest score for difficulty this year: the precise pair of Converse All-Star Slips. Supposedly, they’re in the mail. We’re tracking them daily — just get here by Tuesday!

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  8. MichaelG said on August 22, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    That Detroit teacher looks like a cross between Mr. Rogers and Pee Wee Herman. I suspect part of his problem is that he looks the part.

    The people across the street just painted their house PINK. Gghhaaa.

    I still remember the smell of fresh paper and pencils from back in primary days.

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  9. Kim Ellis said on August 22, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    Walking into an office supply store and smelling the rarefied air is like crack to a junkie. My daughter is 27 now and an English teacher. She still lets me take her school shopping. 🙂

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  10. brian stouder said on August 22, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    I still remember the smell of fresh paper and pencils from back in primary days

    Michaelg – yes indeed.

    School itself has a particular smell; an interesting mix of whatever institutional cleaner they use, and floor wax, and the teeming masses of young folks that circulate through the halls.

    When we go to teacher meetings or events, the air itself seems to appeal directly to my brain, and all sorts of old memories tumble into my consciousness. I bet the pages of the books in the library and in the classrooms around the building retain the essence – and keep it from fading much.

    However it works, there is something about school that never changes, regardless of curriculum revisions (I suppose this is an example of an observer-created-reality)

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  11. Lex said on August 22, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    Best. Lolcat. Evah.

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  12. beb said on August 22, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    I bet that fire fighter was glad for the heavy gloves and coat while hauling that very angry cat to safety!

    I think school uniforms are over-rated but then having gone on school cloths shopping expeditions I have to wonder if all cloths designs aren’t borderline pedophiles. Who designs daisy dukes for 8 year old girls? One school my daughter went to just required shirts with collars. There are no shirts with collars for girls except in the school uniform department.

    As for running schools as 1-8 and high school, I seem to recall that my school basically ran grades 1-3, 4-6 and 7-8 as separate threads. Moving 9th grade in with 7th and 8th grades makes sense for balancing the load of students for any one school. Also there is, I think some sense to kkeeping kids 6 to 8 in one group, 9 to 11 in another and especially 13 to 15 year olds in their own group. Mixing freshmen (15 year olds) in with seniors (18 to life) always struck me as a bad idea. There’s too much difference in emotional growth.

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  13. Jen said on August 22, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Ahhh, school supplies. There is nothing like a blank notebook and a new pencil. I didn’t even like school that much, but I loved getting the supplies. (I used the notebooks and pencils much more to write stories or notes to my friends.)

    I feel so bad for the kindergarten teacher. It’s stories like this that make men afraid to become elementary school teachers, and it’s a shame. They can be a very, very positive force in a classroom, especially for kids who need a good father figure. I kind of understand how they feel though – when I was in middle school I used to babysit for a girl who was basically a compulsive liar. I know she had accused other babysitters and various people of emotional and physical abuse in the past, and I was always afraid she was going to tell her parents that I smacked her and locked her in the closet or something. She didn’t, because she liked me, but I’m still not sure why I ever agreed to babysit for her. (I think they must have paid well.) She got arrested last year for underage drinking and public intoxication.

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  14. alex said on August 22, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    Round versus pointed scissors — exactly the sort of crucially important thing to a child that 999 out of 1,000 parents wouldn’t understand. The empathetic parent gets it, though. The child wants to be appreciated as mature enough to handle real scissors, not baby scissors. The child also doesn’t want to be perceived as a baby by his/her classmates who’ve been entrusted with real scissors. And this is just about scissors. You ain’t seen nothin’ ’til you’ve seen an eight-year-old girl throwin’ a hissy because her mother bought her culottes instead of Daisy Dukes.

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  15. moe99 said on August 22, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    I got my youngest ready for college. Just wait til you see the bill for that, especially if they’re not living at home. Here’s the tip: Fed Ex Ground. It’s cheaper and faster than the post office and they help you tape your boxes shut and will even box it up for you if need be.

    Oh, an OT for parents everywhere:

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  16. Dorothy said on August 22, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    I can’t recall a more pleasant institutional scent than my very first library in Wilkinsburg, PA. Just walking into the building, and walking up the stairs past the large frescos between the 2nd and 3rd floors was enough to get my heart happy.

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  17. coozledad said on August 22, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Every time I read about a day care abuse case, I’m reminded of this one, and why I think State’s Attorneys General shouldn’t be elected, but appointed by their state bar associations. Mike Easley was Attorney General at the time, and neglected to properly review this case because he was already angling for the Governor’s office. He insured that these people’s lives were ruined.

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  18. Gasman said on August 22, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    The Kafakaesque nightmare that teacher James Perry lived through should scare the hell out of all of us. How many of us could withstand that kind scrutiny? When owning copies of “The Lion King” and Harry Potter are deemed to be evidence of sexual perversion because they are, after all, “non-erotic pornography”, any of us could be likewise charged. “Yes, your honor, the defendant subscribed to CABLE TV! You KNOW how much SMUT is on THAT! He clearly is a pedophile and likes to MOLEST CHILDREN!”

    How does Mr. Perry unring that bell? Jesus Christ Himself singing lead backed by a choir of 1,000 angels giving voice to Mr. Perry’s virtues would not erase the whispering and gossip that will follow him for the rest of his life. And you wonder why it’s so hard to get males to teach in the public schools. The threat, however, is not just to elementary school teachers.

    I briefly taught high school and was very afraid. My classes were seen as a dumping ground for kids whose academic potential was deemed marginal, emotionally troubled teens, and/or those who already had interactions with the juvenile justice system. Take an emotionally needy 15-16 year old girl, who may come from an abusive background, who for the first time in her life has a male role model in her life who treats her with respect. It is easy to see how such a troubled child could misinterpret a lack of abuse for romantic attachment. I had dozens of such children in my class everyday. It doesn’t matter how pure your thoughts, how noble your motives, one accusation can end your career. As in the case of Mr. Perry, reason, facts, and justice won’t matter a damn; there will be thousands in the community ready to hang you from the nearest tree.

    That is one of the reasons I don’t teach public school anymore. I had the highest academic qualifications of any music teacher in the state of New Mexico, but I still felt very vulnerable. You could not pay me enough to return to the public schools. In many ways, we are not far removed from Salem, Mass, 1621.

    I hope that they hand that prosecutor his balls in a paper bag and teach him how to “assume the position” in his prison cell. It would be nice if Mr. Perry could extract some civil justice cash retribution as well.

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  19. Gasman said on August 22, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Upon re-reading my post above it became apparent to me that someone might think that I had experienced Mr. Perry’s plight firsthand. I have not. However, that unspoken fear is part of virtually every male teacher’s professional existence. It’s sad when teachers become afraid of students and parents.

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  20. brian stouder said on August 22, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    Say – a few days back Madam Telling Tales was corrected for saying ‘lay’ instead of ‘lie’, which made me chuckle a little bit. Real newspaper folks are sticklers for such things, I suppose – but THESE two boobs make the stickiest grammer sticklers look almost sane

    When it comes to marking up historic signs, good grammar is a bad defense. Two self-styled vigilantes against typos who defaced a more than 60-year-old, hand-painted sign at Grand Canyon National Park were sentenced to probation and banned from national parks for a year. They had removed an extraneous apostrophe and added a comma to the sign.


    The sign was made by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, the architect who designed the rustic 1930s watchtower and other Grand Canyon-area landmarks. An affidavit by National Park Service agent Christopher A. Smith said investigators learned of the vandalism from an Internet site operated by Deck on behalf of the Typo Eradication Advancement League, or TEAL.

    But whoever wrote the wire story couldn’t resist this closing line:

    The TEAL Web site now has only this message — “Statement on the signage of our National Parks and public lands to come” — without a period.

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  21. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 22, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    You should try to recruit counselors for week-long camps these days. Should i tell ’em “hey, after the first deposition it isn’t so scary?” And the grim, unrewarding experience of reporting well-established suspected child abuse to a county CPS office, which is legally mandated and you’re legally obligated to tell your counselors that twice over . . . yep, men aren’t lining up to work with children/youth activities a’tall, and what’s to be done?

    Cutting out the stranger-danger hysteria and getting real about mom’s boyfriends and next door neighbors would be a big step forward, but the nameless predator in the usual “white van” is so much easier to talk about . . .

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  22. joodyb said on August 22, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    What Catherine and Lex said. Reminds me of the “Rescue Me” episode where it rains cats.
    And I guess it’s official: firefighters=handsome.

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  23. Gasman said on August 22, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    As far as school supplies goes, I was appalled at how much I had to shell out from my meager pay to buy supplies for my students. It’s bad enough that the IRS gives teachers a $400 (that’s what it was 2 years ago) deduction, no questions asked. That means that the average teacher spends much more than that. I probably spent $600-800 bucks buying supplies that I needed but my district was too cheap to provide. I think that this is an absolutely intentional practice to shift costs off of district books. It is simply easier for teachers to go out and buy the stuff they need than to screw around with the miles of red tape to get simple supplies.

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  24. MichaelG said on August 22, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    AP story first sentence: “Columns of hulking, smoke-belching Russian tanks rolled out of key positions deep inside Georgia…” Who writes this shit?

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  25. nancy said on August 22, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    Sometimes it’s the hardest lesson to teach: News is what you don’t know. That a tank is large and belches smoke? Is not news.

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  26. Carolyn said on August 22, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    Nance, Bonnie just started eighth grade.
    I remember my own terror when she hit middle school.
    And, yes, they do keep the innocent sixth-graders far from the big kids.
    When we toured Bonnie’s school I asked the counselor to “Show me these mythical eighth-graders.”
    She did, and they didn’t look so scary.
    Still, Bonnie spent her first year of middle school in shock. The social and political pressure brings to mind the Rove era in the White House. Read Queen Bees and Wanna Bees if you haven’t. Tina Fey’s movie Mean Girls is based on it. You’ll recognize your daughter and yourself.
    And the shock does abate. Bonnie glides down the halls now.
    All to begin again in high school next year!

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  27. Dexter said on August 22, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    Memories came back of long ago back-to-school days at the two-room schoolhouse in rural DeKalb County, Indiana. New blue dungarees that Mom never saw the need to wash first to soften them up a bit, yellow Goldenrod tablets, big pencils, baloney sandwiches carried in a steel lunch pail and a great teacher who taught four grades in the same room and produced valedictorians and salutatorians for the surrounding high schools in the process.
    Best deal: Wal*Mart had ruled tablets 10 for a buck a few years ago. I bought way too many.
    Strangest back-to-school year: I was in Vietnam, then 72 hours later I was at IUPUFW as a student, marvelling at the clean floors and restrooms and hearing about some guy named Marshall MacLuhan .

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  28. Terry WAlter said on August 23, 2008 at 2:47 am

    When I was a sophomore in high school, there was a nice looking blond in my biology class. And there was the teacher who had the steely blue eyes, about 15 years older. Seemed to favor her. Can’t remember the timeline, but I remember rumors flying. Anyway at some point, they ended up getting married. Just saw their names in the paper recently, a few decades later. In todays supercharged atmosphere, you have to wonder if this could have happened without him going to jail. Exploitation, hell, after the I dos’ turned into honey dos’, that no doubt got turned around. Bet it made for some interesting moments “how was it that you met mom/dad?”. And at our church, the call went out for people to help with the kids. “so if you’re interested, there’s this class you gotta take”.

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  29. Dexter said on August 23, 2008 at 3:04 am

    Oh yeah, TerryWalter…I remember a high school coach marrying a cheerleader; he had gotten her pregnant, no criminal nuthin’.
    Former Ft. Wayne mayor Bob Armstrong has passed away.

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  30. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 23, 2008 at 6:36 am

    Biden? Oh, this will be a fun fall . . . for secretary of state, sure, but this may be a trainwreck for the Obama campaign by October.

    All that’s left is for McCain to pick Pat Buchanan and we’ll be in cable producer heaven. CNN-Fox-MSN-local access will all have no problem filling their 24 hour air budget with unique content!

    (They texted me at 4:48 because that tells me what, exactly, about Barack? That his staff has no more personal discipline than Bill’s did? “Hey, it’s 3 am, let’s send Monica out for lattes! Say, where is Monica, anyhow?”)

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  31. Linda said on August 23, 2008 at 9:38 am

    Nancy, you might be interested to know that people on Fark are captioning the cat picture as we speak:

    as well as many others.

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  32. nancy said on August 23, 2008 at 11:42 am


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  33. Jenflex said on August 23, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    Gawd, for a sec I thought someone had photoshopped John Edwards’ face into the cat pic.

    Gives that “mah hair is a mess” quote a whole new meaning.

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