Saturday, June 28, 2008

Why is there a picture of President Kennedy in Mr. Plunkett's classroom?


Okay, Readers…stay with me…this will take some explaining.

First of all, I just like the picture.

Secondly, my father drew it. He drew it in early 1964 right after President Kennedy had been assassinated. The country was still in shock and trying to recover. We didn’t really know what had happened, rumors about plots were swirling around (that has never really stopped), and President Johnson (a distant cousin of mine) was doing his best to keep the country going.

But as the years have passed by, we have all learned new things about President Kennedy that we didn’t know when he was President. Much of what we know now makes President Kennedy look pretty bad. So why would I hang a picture of that type of President in my classroom?

Finally, we get to the answer…

I keep it in my room to remind myself that people and appearances can change, sometimes for the worse.  Many Americans now have nothing good to say about the president they once admired; instead, Kennedy's presidency is dismissed out of hand and most people remember nothing of the inspiration that Kennedy brought to much of the country. The image of President Kennedy has also changed over time; he went from being considered a youthful, healthy, vibrant energetic leader to a woman-chasing, physically ill, suspicious, confused, and sometimes even LUCKY man who was considered by many to be nothing more than in the right place at the right time. All the good he did or tried to do is gone and forgotten.

It could happen to me too. Do I really make a difference in my classroom? Do I truly reach my students or am I just a loud, clanging cymbal? Have I changed over time and has it been a change for the better? Am I still open-minded or do I just pretend to be?

I know what I THINK I am…but only time will tell if I am right.

Meantime, the picture hung in every classroom I have occupied during my teaching career. Hopefully, the reminder will stick with me.

Trouble!


I still remember it like it was yesterday...the worst trouble I ever got myself into when I was a kid.

My best friend, Gary, and I were hanging around his house one summer day. We had these two little cap guns that shot paper caps. Each cap was actually a strip of red paper with a tiny dot of firecracker gunpowder in it. We would squeeze the trigger and the gun would "fire" with a loud bang. It was great fun!

After a while, we were tired and bored. So we walked through the garage. In that garage, Gary's father had stored two old cars that leaked oil. The garage was empty...but those oil stains were everywhere.

For some reason, we got the bright idea to stretch the paper caps across the oil stains and light the paper with a match. When the paper burned across the oil stain, the gunpower would bang loudly and the oil stain would burn. We kept stamping out the fires with our sneakers. We were having a great time laughing and scorching our sneakers!!

After a while, I went home for lunch. When I came back later, Gary's mother met me at the door. I have never seen any adult that angry. I thought she was going to hit me! She told me she found the almost empty box of matches and that Gary had told her what we had done. She told me she was on her way to call my mother and that I had better head straight home. [Actually, at that moment, I thought about running away to Africa.]

When I got home, I ran straight to my mother to try and tell her the story first. Too late!! She was glaring at me and talking on the phone to Gary's mother.

We both got some pretty hard words from our fathers. We also got two weeks of being grounded...in the summer! In my family, "grounding" means no leaving the yard, no company, no phone calls, no TV, and I had to go to my room if relatives came over. I was bored out of my skull for those two weeks.

But I sure learned my lesson. And to this day I still wonder how we didn't blow up the garage or seriously hurt ourselves!

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