Friday, June 8, 2012

Up Up and Away

The end of the school year is always a season of change.  Refrains by the Byrds or David Bowie, both convey how change is as constant as the passage of time.  The basement weathers this phenomenon too as the faces shift and change with the school years.  We ourselves are relatively new having only been fixtures for a decade and a half give or take.  The TU sees the basement as blend of cool and unwanted.  It appears the basement is unwanted as this year we are saying goodbye to one of our own who has chosen to willingly depart.  It does happen, but not that often.  In truth this guy has kind of always been an interloper.    But in time he became like one of us, an oddball that fit in below ground.

In most cases people leave the basement with good reason.  Retirement, transfer, quitting, school realignment and even mental illness have taken staff from our midst. But it is rare for anyone to just "up" and leave.  So we thought it worthwhile to talk a little more about the basement and explore the rationale within the mind of one who chooses to leave. 

The steps to the basement circa early 1970s
Throughout its storied history the basement seems to have been predominantly male.  It has also been occupied to a large degree by history classes.  Up until recently, math shared the space, but no more.    The six rooms, all about equal size are all now social studies classrooms.  One room has an  small office(or antechamber if you are a spelunker), mostly for storing dust and mold.  There's also a pair of bathrooms and a set of small utility closets just for looks.

 The basement has always been as much a state of mind as a place.  Students and teachers just seem more laid back when in the basement.  Life happens a beat slower. But that is not to say nothing goes on.  It has a storied history which those of us who remain are proud continue. The same teacher that gave me the low grade I deserved in the early 1990s as a student, hired both members of the TU a short time later.  Since then we've taught with a handful of staff members who thought better of the location and moved on. Reasons vary but several left the profession(coincidence?) and others left the area while two longtime teachers retired.

Roger MacBride
Some pretty amazing stuff happens in the basement.  Beyond the amazing teaching(shameless self promotion) and antics, a government class once hosted the famous 1972 "faithless elector".  We've been visited by state officials, housed sports banquets, been flooded, had Friday hall parties, witnessed the exceedingly rare student altercation, seen chair races, featured a rousing game of wallball, offered shelter from tornadoes, endured earthquakes and countless foreign language class dances above (all of the last three are actually indistinguishable from each other.)  Doing the math, the TU members alone have taught about 3500+ students.  That would mean that in that same time there have been roughly 10,500 students who have taken a class down here.  So why would anybody leave?

Our departing colleague may simply feel more welcome or happier above ground.  He may not like the smell, mold, humidity, lack of sunlight, creatures, or secluded feeling.  We remind him of the smells above ground that await him on the American Studies Hall.  Maybe it was just time for a change.  He could hate us.  All interesting theories.  We think we know the real story.  Beginning several months back this individual began an all juice fast and has not been himself since.  While he has lost weight, claims to feel rejuvenated and generally seems healthier, we've seen some different side effects during lunch.
We do the same thing everyday.  "Don't drive angry."

Gone are the discussions about best practices, eliminating poverty, and the joys of teaching.  Replaced by incessant banter about beets, kale, and rutabaga.  While not so bad at first it now feels like we are imprisoned on the set of Groundhog Day.  The vibrant, intelligent, driven man is no more and all that remains is the shell of an individual who's brain has perhaps turned to mush...or juice. That said, he is a great teacher and will be missed.  Even though he will just be upstairs, it won't be the same.

The faces may change, but the basement remains the same. 

As he goes to seek refuge above ground or simply on a quest in search of something greater among the wilds and light of the upper world, we wish well and offer these words; 

God speed John Glenn.

No comments:

Post a Comment