Archive for September 2022

Creepy Flaming Hot Cheetos Teacher

September 17, 2022

It began with something like this:

My face was buried into my cell phone as I turned the corner and headed into the classroom. My friend, Snow, stood there, a startled look frozen in her eyes. That’s when I saw him. Our substitute teacher, Mr. Wolfe, standing behind his desk and sipping on his coffee. His lips were parted as he raised his mug. It’s at that moment that I saw what had frozen Snow. There were two fangs peeking out from his upper teeth. He looked at me and said in a creepy sort of way, “Welcome to my class.” It sent goosebumps cascading down my arms.

That was the beginning of a writing assignment that I gave them. The 60 eighth-graders were to write the rest of the story. Word range: 400-800. No profanity, drugs, alcohol, or anything that would shock the socks off their parents.

The backstory of the story: I had suddenly been asked to help the middle school through a transition situation. The language arts classes had been studying short stories and story plot lines and I needed an assignment that was still connected to the topic, but could help the students move on. Quite honestly, I needed something that would give me a couple of days to figure out the road ahead, while keeping them engaged in the hour-long class period.

Most of them surged ahead, typing furiously on their laptops as if they were writing Stephen King novels. One girl emailed me on the evening of the first days and said, “Mr. Wolfe, I’m at 2,000 words. Is that okay?” Usually, students are much more likely to say, “I’m at 350 words. If that enough!” I responded to this young lady that it was fine as long as it kept me interested and, more importantly, followed the short story flow chart of “problem, rising action, climax, falling action, conclusion”.

As I’ve perused some off the submissions, I have found myself turned into a werewolf, a vampire, a creepy, and (my favorite) “The Creepy Flaming Hot Cheetos Teacher”. I have met my demise multiple times, which I gave them permission to do. I only asked that they not bring me to a sudden, uneventful end simply because it was time for lunch.

It has greatly helped in the easing of the week’s uneasiness. They are a group of diverse personalities, some full of themselves and others overflowing with self-doubt; some edging toward the cliff of bad decisions and others wise beyond their years; some academically-motivated and others more spellbound by the charisma of their friends.

And so now that many of them have killed me off in print, I’m being resurrected to walk with them for the rest of the year’s journey, minus the Flaming Hot Cheetos.

Why Men Don’t Sing in Church…Even More

September 10, 2022

Last Sunday as I was standing with a church congregation to sing the opening praise songs, I realized something strange. I wanted to sing, but found it difficult TO sing. The main reason for my vocal limitations was the range of the notes of the songs. They seemed to have settled on the higher range, like a kite floating in the wind out of reach, and stayed there. I could feel the stress on my vocal chords, as I strained to reach them and offer my voice in musical praise.

After a while, I went to the grounded range and, in a quieter volume, sounded like a frog trying to blend in.

There have been many reasons spouted as to why men don’t sing in church, such as that it doesn’t touch their hardened emotions, they don’t like to even go to church, they are unfamiliar with the rising number of praise songs, and they get tired of singing the same words over and over again.

For me, it seems that too many times, churches are trying to recreate the Chris Tomlin-type worship music. Although I enjoy most of his songs, they are just a little bit out of my reach. Perhaps my voice, just like my knees and hips, is showing the effects of my age, losing its flexibility and becoming less reliable. Maybe there needs to be a new type of music that is elderly-friendly!

The church does not need my voice to offer musical worship. After all, I’m sitting here in Starbucks with my cheap knock-off ear buds listening to praise songs on one of the Spotify channels. The song that’s playing right now is like a constant high-pitched siren with the same words that keep going and going. If only I could have had that few amount of words to learn in the latin college class I took, I may have passed it.

Without a doubt I’m showing my bias here, but some old, old hymns were more sing-able for men. After all, some of them were taken from German tavern songs and revised with a Godly-emphasis. I can’t see some of the melodic praise songs we sing in church today being echoed by a tavern clientele as they house their beer steins in the air.

Generalizing in a sarcastic sort of way, most men would rather yell at the refs than sing to the Lord. the thing is, God would hear, and be pleased by, their slightest offerings, while the referees are deaf to the crowd. Of course, that brings in another biblical theme: blessings and curses.

Fiesta Friday

September 3, 2022

I had primed the pump this past Tuesday when some of our middle school parents walked into the classroom where their sons and daughters have been educating me on the Spanish language. On Friday, our Spanish classes would be having “Fiesta Friday”, a time of tortilla chips, salsa, and guacamole. I urged them to have the kids bring bags of chips and whatever else they would like to contribute. Several of them followed through, loading their young adolescents down with bulky bags that, thankfully, were not crammed into their already-jam-packed backpacks.

In mentioning the fiesta to the students, several of them wanted to jump from chips and salsa to a buffet table of an interesting combination of food choices: shredded cheese (OK!), Mexican desserts (OK!), horchata (OK!), chicken nuggets (NO!), gummy bears (NO!), Cheese Whiz (NO!), pizza (NO!), mozzarella sticks (NO!), edamame (WHY???).

Friday arrived and the bags filtered in. And you know something? Middle school kids eat a lot of tortilla chips, and even more salsa (unless it’s mango salsa), and are not afraid of suspicious-looking guacamole. I filled, and filled, and filled the extra large bowl that was meant to feed a battalion. They attacked the salsa as if it was some weird Halloween candy offering. Rationing was not rationale. One girl brought a gallon of Hawaiian Punch, which suddenly had become a Mexican drink, and was drained by the 24 students who had just walked through the dry desert of their first two classes of the day.

One amazing young lady had made sopapillas at home with her dad. I need to give her some extra-credit points. They were awesome!

Several students regarded me as the restocking person, and would look at me and say, “There’s no more guac!” To which I would reply, “Did you put your guacamole out yet?” “I-I-I didn’t bring any.”

One boy had tortilla chips trying to escape his mouth. They glittered his lips and creeped up his cheeks. Another treated the chips like they were crackers to dot the salsa with. His bowl resembled salsa soup. Somewhere he found a spoon.

They enjoyed the day. The day before they had taken a test. On Friday, they tested me. I even had to run to the local grocery store during my lunchtime to buy a few more bags and a couple of additional salsa jars. I discovered…it is never enough!

And then we played Spanish Bingo, where they filled spaces on their card with words from our Spanish vocabulary list from the first three weeks. I said the word in English and they had to figure out whether or not the Spanish word was on their card. Most of the contestants were on point, resembling avid Friday night Bingo enthusiasts. A few, however, I would hear say things like, “I don’t know what the word for that is!” and “We never had ‘house’ on our list yet!” “Yes, we did!” “Well, what is it?” “I’m not telling you!”

It was a day!

My last week approaches and then the new teacher, who I met on Tuesday and is experienced, personable, and awesome, arrives. Some of the kids are pleading with me to not leave, to which I respond, “I am not Spanish teacher! I’m like that plug in your sink, just trying not to let too much water escape. They stare at me with confusion, not understanding that it’s an analogy, a comparison. It’s the “deer-in-headlights” look, or “ciervo en faros”, as they say in Spanish.