A Letter to My Dog, Half Pint

This last year may have been the worst one of my life, but at least I've got the world's two greatest dogs by my side to help me stagger into 2018. Today's post features a letter to Half Pint. Benjamin will be getting a letter later this week--he'd never let me hear the end of it, otherwise. Also, this posts features a lot of short video clips of Half Pint being silly. Since I apparently can't do anything right these days, they are exclusively shot in vertical mode. Please accept my apologies (and cut me some friggin' slack).

Fun with the public school system: The worst possible way to start the first week of your teaching career

For those of you that are unfamiliar with the teaching profession, the first year can make the 9th ring of hell seem like a water slide.  There are a million things that no amount of college prep can prepare you for, including the massive amount of time dedicated to paperwork/documentation, the inability to say no to every task and extra committee that you are asked/required to be on (this confidence and courage to refuse will come later), and the frustration of dealing with ever changing "education initiatives."   All this pales in comparison to actually managing a classroom full of moody and hormonal children that are well aware of your newness to the profession.

"I can smell your fear, noobie..."

We lose way too many potentially great teachers after the first year, which is a shame since most that stick around will tell you that the second year is infinitely better.  The following is a story from one of those teachers that survived her first year and went onto become a great educator.  She has given me permission to tell her story, but asked that we not use her name (since the tale involves a district that she recently worked for).  We will call her “Erica.”

Even though she is younger than me, Erica is a teacher that I greatly admire and even look up to for a few reasons:

1.  I have known her and her family since before either one of us had graduated from college.  She has always been a great musician and an even better friend.
2.  She has an infectious energy and an amazing ability to get kids to listen to her.  Combine this with her musicianship, and it’s no wonder that she is already an assistant director for one of the best middle school band programs in the entire southeast.
3.  If anyone else (myself included) had experienced what she did during her first week of teaching, they would most likely have been forgiven for wanting to quit right then and there. 

During Erica’s first week on the job, her school decided to have a lock down drill.  I’ve already talked about these types of drills once before; they are done so that students and staff can be kept safe in the unlikely event of a school intruder/shooter incident.  It’s highly unusual, however, to have a drill like this during the first few days of school.  The administration also had not told Erica or any of the other teachers about it.  Normally, teachers and students are informed when a drill like this is going to happen so that we are spared the experience of completely crapping our pants in fear. 

Lock Down Drill Step #4:  Ignore the smell

Erica had been already been familiarized with the school’s lock down drill procedures, which required her to lock both band room doors,  move the students to one side of the room (away from the windows), and turn off the lights.  As she went towards the first door (which lead outside), she was greeted by something that no one would be expecting:  An old man who was dressed in all black, wearing huge aviator sunglasses, and sporting white and unkempt hair that made it look as if he had recently stuck his finger into an electrical outlet.  To complete his ensemble of fear and suspicion, the gentleman was not wearing any type of school identification or a visitor’s badge.

Terrible (yet surprisingly accurate) visual approximation

“Let me in right now!” He barked while glaring through the window on the door.

Erica locked the door just as the handle began to shake violently. 

“OPEN THIS DOOR!” the old man bellowed as he continued to pull on the locked door and shake the handle.

At this point, the students (and Erica) were understandably freaked out.  But just as quickly as the old man appeared, he suddenly vanished from the window.  Perhaps the lock down procedures had worked as intended; the intruder attempted to enter the classroom, discovered that he was unable to do so, and moved on…

…or he somehow knew that there was another door on the other side of the band room.


Erica quickly dashed over to the other side of the room, but it was too late; the old man had reached the other door and begun to pull it open.  She grabbed the handle just as he had begun to swing the door open and attempted to pull it closed.  A brief tug of war ensued, accompanied by screaming students and the old man demanding that Erica “OPEN THIS DOOR!”

Finally, the old man won the battle and yanked the door open, pulling Erica outside, as well.

“This is it,” she thought.  “I’m going to die and I wasn’t able to protect my kids.”

Erica was flung onto the floor for what she was convinced would be her final living moments.  As she lay on the ground, the old man stood over her, pointed his finger, and angrily screamed:


My dog told me that I am the dark lord Satan!

“No…” Erica hesitantly answered.

Thinking that this is probably what serial killers say before draining their victim's blood into an antique vase, Erica was surprised to find herself alive and well...and laying on the ground in front of a veteran employee of the school district's main office.

The old man proceeded to berate her for not knowing that he had worked for the school district for many years, that Erica should have known who he was, and that she should have let him into the room when the lock down drill began.  Being a first year teacher (during her first week of school) and having a generally kind disposition, Erica simply apologized, which is definitely not the level of diplomacy that I would have shown given the same situation.

Guess what has two thumbs and doesn't give a crap who you are?

Erica was a bit rattled, but it really can't get much worse than believing that you and your classroom full of children are about to meet a violent death.   Despite fearing for her life and getting in trouble with a district "higher up," she was able to finish the rest of the day and continue her teaching career.

Erica always seems to be able to take things in stride much better than most of our colleagues in the music educator profession.  I guess when you've stared what you believed to be your impending death right in the face while at your job, other tasks and conflicts just don't seem that intimidating anymore.

Unless the task or situation is wearing these.  
Then it's all over.


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