On Working in a Bike Shop
"What?! When did you start working in a bicycle shop?"
Some of you may be asking this question; others know that this is what I say I would be doing if I weren’t teaching.
Unfortunately, the last week or so of constant bickering amongst Oklahoma’s most influential educators has me more fed up than ever. And I’m aware that I’ve fed a portion of this by “sharing” various posts on my Facebook page; I always hope those posts might lead to some dialogue that will forward a meaningful discussion amongst friends who aren’t educators, but I’m not convinced that they do. This is not a critique of any of my friends, by the way - I’ve discussed these topics with most of you more than enough, so dialogue on Facebook really isn’t necessary.
What’s become frustrating about this debate is its total lack of focus on the students. I’ve spent all Sunday stewing over different articles about the way the adults in the state are behaving, resenting yet another article or post on this issue, yet I’ve thought nothing of grading papers or writing recommendation letters for students. As usual, the students aren’t what make this job aggravating, but the adults who forget that our focus should be on improving their chances for the future, not our positions as politicians, unions, or anything else.
Most of you who know me know that I hate the over-used phrase “we do this for the kids.” I do this because I love English and music and I want to share that passion with others. Students are typically the most receptive audience given my talents. “Do it for the kids” is patronizing and emotional blackmail - of course we do this to better children; yet, so many of the proposed solutions to education aren’t truly student focused. “College and Career Readiness” standards are about making life easier on the business world, making them less responsible for educating employees once they get there. Look, I’m a fan of Common Core, I just don’t understand why we won’t be honest about what it is attempting to accomplish?
I digress. I’m getting to the point that even doing the work that only involves my students is starting to carry the weight of the rest of this debate, making me less excited about sharing my passion with my students. It’s difficult to read negativity about my chosen career - reading that my State Superintendent of Schools has said that I and my colleagues have lost an entire generation of Oklahoma students, for example - and then get excited about not spending time with my family only to supposedly “fail” some more students.
So, what does this have to do with a bike shop? As horrible as the stories of cyclist killed by motorists are, I don’t see local bike shops attacked as having failed much of anybody. I don’t see them categorically blamed for obesity rates, nor do I see them being evaluated based off the riding abilities of their customers. Look, all the men and women that I know who work at bike shops do extra community service off their contract time, too; it’s not about the work load or grading papers. However, when they run a successful community event, they are lauded for reintroducing a healthy lifestyle to people, not for having failed to keep them healthy to begin with.
This significant shift in attitude, particularly in a state focused on trying to become healthier, makes working in a bike shop very attractive right now. I love and have a passion for bicycles as well, though I don’t think I’d see as many customers on a daily basis as I do students. And I dread the thought of not teaching English, though maybe a book club through the local bike shop could feed that part of my soul, too. Regardless, something has to change, or more educators like me may find themselves choosing between the students we want to serve and the adults who make the rules for doing this job so difficult.
9:41 pm • 10 November 2013 • 6 notes
My oldest child turned 13 this week. Initially, this post seemed to be a time to lament about my aging and how I feel having a teenager, etc.
However, my trip down memory lane shifted significantly as my wife and I were looking at old pictures. My father has had some significant health issues over the last decade, and seeing him in 13 year old pictures - holding my then new-born daughter - was a startling reality check about how he has aged over the past few years.
As usual, I don’t know that I have an epiphany to share; the realization that the immortal are mortal is trite, and considering that my parents were 40 when I was born means that realization happened much earlier in life. But there is resignation, and sorrow, over the inevitable. And it’s inevitable for all of us, so I don’t find myself experiencing grief.
Perhaps the best description is the shame of it all. Being able to see the gradual transition in the stark contrast of before-and-after pictures makes the implied explicit. And it is a shame that any of us have to go through this, either in watching others or eventually experiencing aging ourselves. It is what it is; I have no interest in medical advancement that slows or halts the aging process. But the ambivalence I feel doesn’t really help when facing the realities of life.
9:37 pm • 1 August 2013 • 1 note
I didn’t ride my bike on Saturday. After riding very little the entire month of June, the beginning of July has been something akin to a binge riding session. Six or seven days straight of riding, equaling close to 150 miles, is a big deal when the previous month totaled about 60 miles.
So I decided not to ride on Saturday. I got up late (for me, so around 7:30), watched the live broad cast of the Tour de France stage for the day, went with the family to see “Despicable Me 2” (well worth it, by the way - an excellent movie), then more family time spent swimming. On the whole, a fantastic day.
My bike ride today was nothing short of fantastic. I found that zone where everything felt great and just worked, no thought or real effort required. But here’s the thing - I’m sure the physical recovery was helpful; I wonder how much of today was mental? How much of my great ride was because the day before had been so fulfilling? I don’t know enough about the science of sport to really know, but I do know that I had no sense that my time off the bike on Saturday had been wasted, meaning that Sunday morning’s ride was not a return to the bike with me guilty over missed opportunities from the day before.
No, I rode this morning feeling refreshed, renewed, still tired, but recovered.
10:01 pm • 7 July 2013 • 1 note
On Getting to Ride Again
I always have at least a month during the summer where I’m basically off the bike. It’s frustrating, but travel makes riding very difficult. I managed to ride last night for the first time in the better part of a week, but I think I’ve only ridden three times in the last three weeks - family vacation, long workshops, etc.
Regardless, riding last night reminding me of why I like riding over all other exercise opportunities available. It’s a hassle to travel with a bike, but exploring new territory, finding new sites (take a look at my last post for a picture), and rediscovering that moment where I realize I am pleased with how my body is working and responding are experiences I can’t replicate with running, swimming, walking…anything.
A good ride serves as my therapy; my saddle might as well be that stereotypical couch. I feel like I process the world better during and after a ride, and there’s not much more for which I can ask.
9:28 pm • 19 June 2013 • 1 note
Exploring Little Rock’s River Trail
7:10 pm • 18 June 2013
On Meeting State Office Holders
I had the good fortune to be involved in a “round table” meeting with a high-ranking state official this last week. I’ve held off writing about in an attempt to process the conversation and what it says about the nature of holding a state or federal elected office.
As for the round table itself, it went about how I expected it to. I’ve had the opportunity to attend events of various kinds like this about 10 times in my life, and I’m always struck by the disconnect I feel with the elected official, regardless of whether I agree with their politics or not. The individuals representing the government always seem to struggle to answer a question directly, and if any word or phrase resonates with a stump speech, he/she quickly shifts into that language, regardless of its relevance to the question asked.
But I can’t be overly cynical because all politicians do this. We hear it every general election during the presidential debates, or any other time politicians are responding to questions and not presenting a prepared text. This is where I have struggled to process last week’s exchange.
So here’s what I’m beginning to think - once politicians move beyond the truly local level, perhaps anything above being a mayor - they are required to think of issues at the macro level to the point where they cannot relate to how policies for which they advocate look in the shifting realities of the local level. Politicians seem to exist in a world of hypothetical scenarios where variables are limited. If the official holds a high enough office, he/she has a staff responsible for translating policy into action, providing further absolution for understanding “local” impact.
I think this is why meeting with our elected officials is such an exercise in futility unless the setting is designed as little more than a glorified pep rally. If all I’m looking for is an emotional rise, then the glittering generalities and stump speech bumper-sticker moments are great. But if I’m wanting meaningful dialogue, the likelihood that I walk away feeling satisfied seems very limited - not because the politician doesn’t want to be helpful, but because we struggle to communicate on the same level. I need to ask and get answers to questions that address my day-to-day reality, and politicians need to provide answers for hypotheticals that can help form policy because day-to-day realities are so varied that their consideration would lead to inaction.
As usual, I don’t know that I have a solution to this problem; I’m just offering a diagnosis to perhaps explain why we struggle to communicate with our elected officials. If anything, maybe it helps us set realistic expectations and recast our questions when we are given the opportunity to ask them.
10:52 pm • 29 April 2013 • 1 note
On the Boston Marathon Bombing
I can’t make sense if this, so I won’t try. To try to place the irrational into the confines of the rational always leads to frustration, so I shy away.
Instead, I’m observing social media tonight. I find escapism, the banal, the mundane. I find sympathy, and hope, and those trying to come to terms with today’s events. Coming from Oklahoma, I also find lots of empathy; I use that word carefully and not to apply to myself, but there are many here who can relate to those in Boston,and that is tragic in its own right.
I also learned new truths about old friends today, which makes me happy. There are multiple friends whose words and pictures on my social media feeds, about different topics and from different worlds of mine, give me hope for their futures and the sense of happiness and peace that I hope they have.
And there’s the word I’ve been drawn to tonight - peace. It doesn’t seem to matter the context, I hope that so many in the world tonight can find a sense of peace. I mean that in all its contexts: world peace, inner peace, the peace that comes with contentment, and solace from suffering.
May peace be with you tonight.
9:18 pm • 15 April 2013 • 3 notes
New tires on the bike, waiting to be ridden tomorrow. Perhaps only bar tape can do more to make you feel like there’s a new bike in the garage. Except for getting a new bike, of course.
8:09 pm • 10 April 2013 • 1 note
Joe to Pro Cycling: Good lesson last night on which meals need to be what size -...
Good lesson last night on which meals need to be what size - especially if you are highly active as a cyclist/bike commuter. It’s easy for me to reduce my meals around Breakfast and Lunch - I can feel satisfied for under 500 calories between these two meals. But when it comes time to ride my bike…
10:55 pm • 27 March 2013 • 2 notes