This is Steve the Polar Bear by my awesome friend Ben. Visit him at stevethepolarbear, ok?

Yep, I’m heading to Mississippi in 12 days! Meanwhile, this blog is moving, too. MTC’s preferred hosting site is Vox for better security and privacy control.

I’m sorry all the nice comments won’t migrate.

So head on over. You know I’ll be required to start keeping it going again, and the adventure’s just starting.

lineup and art

It’s January and the flu season is in full swing. We’re discouraged from shaking hands or joining hands at church services. But here at the L. Community Center after-school program, Yonas spent most of the afternoon sneezing and coughing on me and on all of the various papers and pencils we were using to work on his math.

I try so hard not to touch my own eyes or nose after being near him.

I like Yonas a lot, but it’s just so difficult to warm up to someone who’s a walking germ factory. This leads me to wonder how I will deal with the occasional students in my own classroom who are just, for whatever reason, difficult to like. Each time I come to the Lincolnia Center, I choose who I want to spend time with, and tend to avoid the kids I don’t have a soft spot for. I’m not so sure this is a good idea. I know I’d learn more if I found ways to work with the kids who are stand-offish or not as appealing.

vigil.jpg

Isn’t it simply the human thing to do? To protest the slaughter of children as a byproduct of actions that also deny a nation’s sovereignty?

It only made page B4.

While the story about whether Metro riders will like the new cars with fewer seats and more standing room was on B1, below the fold; the true tragedy — some of Fairfax county’s residents who blatantly violated the county’s 35-foot residential height limits are being forced to redesign their McMansions-in-progress — was top of the fold, outside corner.

Yeah, that’s my hometown. The one with the whitest house of them all. And people ask why I’m moving to Mississippi to teach.

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One of the nifty little things about my WordPress blog is that I can see the Google search terms that bring various eyeballs to my pages. Here are two recent examples that I found especially amusing. I’m just wondering what train of thought led to these searches … and hoping you found what you were looking for.

crab traps and bicycle

There was plenty of time after school to walk around on Tangier, and the quiet town encouraged the wonderful sort of walking meditation of the wandering mind. And each walk usually ended up with a mental soundtrack that I took as a clue to what I’d been mulling.

So there’s no daycare, preschool, or summer enrichment. Kids spend the summers helping out on their fathers’ crab boats, or just running free on the island. Children running around free. I saw kids on their bikes, alone or in pairs, with that rare spirit of a free childhood.

One would think that this is a great place to raise kids … basically in the arms of one big family, free from abduction, hit and run drivers, strangers. There’s a strong value of self-sufficiency and independence throughout the community that translates into competent, confident children.

But I think the freedom ends after childhood. On this island boys become watermen and girls become mothers. Or they leave. With that belief system, children aren’t encouraged to fully engage in the developmental stage of questioning and exploring their individual identity. I’m not saying the teens don’t go through the adolescent rebelliousness. I saw a number of kids who probably weren’t in their parents best graces at the moment: There were a few tattoos and piercing, and I’m sure there’s truancy and mischief.

What’s missing, though, is an atmosphere that fosters deeper questioning, or encourages big dreams. I wouldn’t last a month. I’d be burned at the stake. Or I’d learn to keep my yap shut and do a lot of journaling.

Unlike many other small rural towns I’ve visited, though, there’s plenty of young families on the island, so they seem to accept the status quo.

Religion is very important in the community. Nearly 98 percent of the residents belong to the single Methodist church, which is also the center of social activity. There’s no alcohol on the island. Men and women still lead very separate lives. Even though there’s no bar, there’s a sandwich shop that only men go to. It’s as though along with their dialect they’ve also frozen cultural time. I think because their values are so tightly woven into the fabric of their everyday lives — rather than compartmentalized the way most modern children’s often are — they wouldn’t think of questioning it any more than they’d question gravity.

Still, in spite of being surrounded by water, their horizons are so small. They’re free and bound at the same time.

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