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Showing posts from November, 2009

The Preteen Blues (played in B)

Middle school years are the hardest ... the students feel disconnected from the "little kids" in elementary grades and unacceptable to the "big kids" in high school.

Interestingly enough, that was my favorite group of kids to teach. I'm not sure why. Maybe it was because they were still young enough to enjoy cartoons and old enough to be a little more sophisticated intellectually. I related to that ... at 25 years old (okay, emotionally and mentally I was 13 years old). So ... we understood each other. Now that I have reached well beyond the AARP threshold ... I'm about at the senior high school level.


One thing I always remembered about being in school myself was that I continually questioned the relevance of what was taught. Why did I need to study about frog reflexes or isoceles triangles or Custer's Last Stand? Would I need the frog reflex fact or have to draw a triangle when I applied for a job? I don't think so. Now, the Custer thing ... that w…

I Love You Mom

I have tried to keep this blog light and funny .... not too heavy ... but enjoyable. I think all of us need to laugh at ourselves now and then. But today is different and I hope you'll forgive me for talking about a subject that is anything but humorous. Today I wanted to share some thoughts about my mom.

She passed away last night.

It was the end of a two year decline. She weighed only 70 pounds and barely had a pulse when she was transported to the hospital. Her systems were shutting down as I watched her try to breathe through the oxygen mask. It was hard to watch as I remembered how beautiful she was ... how bright and immacculate she kept herself over the years.

As fate would have it, my two daughters were visiting her earlier in the day at the nursing home when she started to crash. My son and my wife, Debbie met me at the hospital when the ER staff was trying to stabilize her.  I stepped out to speak to the doctor and left Josh, my son, with my mom for a few minutes.

When…

The Truly Beautiful People

There are so many wonderful stories I could tell about my students at Canterbury ... also a few that I can't tell, either (those little angels!). Every now and then I run into one of my former students and find out all the wonderful things that they have done with their lives. At least two (that I know of) are regular readers of I Was Born Very Young ... Wendy and Ellie ... and I love hearing from them from time to time. I can't understand why they would want to read my stuff anymore ... I was sure they would have been tired of listening to me by now ... but I love them for it.

I'll share two other stories about my former students:

About ten years ago, I ran into Christina, who was touring All Children's Hospital (my subsequent employer) with the Junior League. I hadn't seen her in more than 20 years but recognized her immediately.

"Christina? Is that you?"
"Yes, Mr. Momberg. It's great to see you." She kept her eyes averted shyly.
"…

Other Duties As Assigned

There's more to teaching at a small private school than most people realize. Lunch duty, detention, coffee breaks, baby sitting, countless hours talking trash about people in the teachers' lounge, coffee breaks, taking naps ( ... oh wait ... that was just Karl ...). There were "other duties as assigned". Mine were Yearbook Advisor, Soccer Coach, Editor of the newsletter and ... in later years ... Admissions Director.

The first Admissions Director was Bob Bradshaw. He came to Canterbury the year after I arrived. Bright guy ... the product of Northeast prep schools, graduated from Yale ... set to follow in his father's footsteps as a Philadelphia attorney ... but he headed south to St. Pete instead. Turned out he was much happier teaching school and coaching basketball for about $4000 a year. Go and figure. Bob was a voracious writer too ... his class notes were the size of a James Michener novel. I remember when he first came, I did a piece on him to introduce him…

Who's Watching the Kids?

Looking back at my old Canterbury pictures, my hair was pretty long. Actually ... looking back ... I'm happy I HAD hair.

I wasn't alone. Alot of my fellow teachers had long hair: Sarah, Jan, Candy (well, my hair was longer than hers). Even some of the guys. There were always more female teachers than male teachers in the lower school. Karl was the rare exception as a kindergarten teacher. But then Karl was a rare exception in life.

Sarah Lonquist taught first grade. She has a southern accent right out of "Steel Magnolias". In fact, she could have starred in that movie. The students adored her ... so did the rest of us. Her name had 37 syllables: Sayyyyrraaahhhlooowwwiiinquiiiiissssst. Sarah's own kids had 37 syllables in each of their names, as well, and were always referred to as Carollonquist and Jimmylonquist ... as in ... "Well, I just had the nicest day shopping with my Carollonquist ... she just has such wonderful taste ... must take after her mother.…

God's Waiting Room

" How would you like to teach in St. Petersburg, Florida?" Candy asked me that at the end of the school year and the end of my contract with AIS in Vienna.
" St. Petersburg, Florida?" I asked.
" Yeah. I accepted the position of Lower School Head for The Canterbury School of Florida."
" There are actual children in St. Petersburg?"

Up until that point, I had heard that Florida was God's Waiting Room. Actually, in those days, St. Pete was known as the home of the newly wed and the nearly dead. I figured that once you gave birth, you were banished to Georgia or Alabama or had to go back to where you came from (New York mostly).


But I soon found out there were at least 15 sixth graders who lived there. They were my first honest to goodness class that I could call my own. I had taken Candy's offer and had become a sixth grade teacher in St. Pete ... living on St. Pete Beach and loving life.

Crazy Karl came too. He was the new Kindergarten te…

I Gotta Go Home

I was starting to worry that the United States was changing at the speed of light while I was living in Europe in 1973 and 1974. Here are a few of the things that I read ... from the pages of European newspapers:


- The Watergate Scandal ... you remember that? Nixon's criminal bunch CREEP (Committee to Re-elect the President) caught breaking into the Democratic Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel? Conspirators Mc Cord, Liddy, Haldeman, et al ... sounded like a disfunctional law firm.

- Nixon resigns. BIG surprise.

- Roe v Wade ... Supreme Court overturns the state bans on abortion. To this day ... it's one of the most controvertial split issues ever.


- Streaking ... naked guy running across the screen at the Academy Awards during David Niven's presentation. Following that ... streakers showed up everywhere there were cameras.

- Secretariat became the first Triple Crown winner since 1948. He's a horse by the way for those of you that thought that it was an illegal electio…

What Do You Get When You Mix a Sumo With a Strudel?

I called Candy. She was the lower school principal at AIS in Vienna who said ... "if you ever want a permanent position, call me." I needed a position ... any position. I guess I could have gone back to the states but I wanted to stay around Western Europe a little longer.

Candy lined up a job for me.

A week earlier, one of the high school history teachers was in a tragic automobile accident. There was suddenly a need for a substitute to teach her classes for the remaining school year. There was only one catch: the substitute had to teach Japanese history.

" Can you teach Japanese history?" the head of the history department asked me.
" Of course." I said without hesitation.
" Have you ever taught it?"
" Um ... no ... but I have a good knowlege base of ... what did you say it was again?"
" Japanese history."
" Yeah ... THAT."
" Okay ... it's yours."


He was obviously desperate. I didn't have a clue …

Roma Coma: The Final Chapter

Other than the nights on the Via Veneto, my life was not working out well. My money was running out, my boss at Readak was pressuring me to start the course and apparently everyone in Italy except for me wore the same size pants.

I loved the school ... Marymount International Academy. It was a very exclusive Catholic school, located on the outskirts of Rome ... on the Via di Villa Lauchli. (How I remember that street name is beyond me ... I can't even remember what I had for breakfast ... I must be a "useless fact savant"). I remember having regular meetings with the headmistress. She was a Dutch nun who "kicked the habit" years ago. Try as I might ... I couldn't salvage the course. And in the end I had to refund the money and apologize. My luggage was still missing more than a month after I arrived and I had no teaching materials (books, tests, equipment, etc).


My Readak days were over. We parted ways over this last experience. They didn't want me to re…

Roma Coma Part 2

There I was in the middle of the train station in Rome. I had no luggage ... which meant no clothes and no classroom materials ... and was told by the "officials" that it could take weeks before they found my bags. I was due to start teaching classes in less than a week.

The more upset I got with the customs officers ... the more laid back and nonchalant they became.

Fortunately, I had not lost my traveler's cheques ... which I carried in my pocket. For those of you too young to remember ... travelers' cheques were critical travelling currency ...  as there were no ATMs in those days. American Express backed these if they were lost or stolen. Mine were neither, thank heaven.

I needed clothes so ...  I asked a taxi driver to take me to a nice clothing store. He took me to one located right off of the Via Veneto (at the time one of the most famous streets in the world ... filled with a unique blend of outdoor cafes and frequented by celebrities). I wasted no time pic…

Roma Coma Part 1

My time in Vienna seemed to speed by.


Rome was to be my next stop. I said my goodbyes to Karl ... Mr. Kindergarten movies, Bob Fumo ... big red beard with a laugh to match, Candy Stein (she was the lower school principal, from Ohio and not Jewish ... first Stein I ever met that wasn't). Candy told me to keep in touch and let her know if I ever wanted to take a more permanent position.

Little did I know then how important those words would become.

The train between Vienna and Rome had regular coach cars and special sleeping cars. The sleeping areas were called couchettes (a fancy name for solid boards covered with a blankets and stacked up in fours.) I sat in the regular coach with my bags until it got dark. One of the conductors told me to leave my bags at the spot that I was sitting and move to the cachette in the next car to get some sleep.


I said good night to my luggage ... I should have said goodbye.

The next morning my bags were gone. Worse still ... all the conductors were It…

Vienna Waits For You

"Was kostet das?"

That was the most important phrase I learned while living in Vienna. It meant "What does this cost?"... and I used it frequently for food. Restaurants typically asked for the money before you ate. I couldn't figure out how to say "how much does the chewy stuff with fat and breading cost?" ... so I'd just point and use the same dumb phrase.

I also used that phrase alot at the flea market that my new friend and teaching colleague, Karl, introduced me to. We used to go once a week. Karl bought old home movies. He didn't care who was in them or what they were about. He was a Kindergarten teacher and used them in class as story starters for the kids.


His classroom was filled with flea market stuff ... old books in different languages (not the classics ... unless Plumbing for Dummies in German counts), clocks, camera equipment, old records, a VW van bench ... all priceless when you asked him, "Was kostet das?"


In the afte…