Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day: Not Just for Everyone Else

So it's Valentine's Day again, a day women with relationships can't wait for and women without them rue. A day men with relationships hope to get right and men without them do their best to ignore. It is as much a commercial holiday as Christmas has become, albeit the anticipation surrounding this holiday isn't quite the same.   But what is Valentine's day truly about? One complaint I have heard from some Christians about Christmas is that we should be celebrating Jesus all the year round, not just on this one day at the end of the year.   I think perhaps they have a valid point, though I love Christmas as much as the next person and don't think this perspective takes anything away from the joy of the holiday.  I digress.

The point is, the theme of Christmas is not one to be celebrated only once a year, but all 365. Can't we say the same for this holiday we celebrate every February 14th? But wait, you say, you've already pointed out that not every person has a significant other, someone they are "in love" with, and for this reason Vday means something different to them than it does to me! Perhaps, but I'd argue otherwise.

A couple years ago I got a tattoo, as was my wont in those days, of 1 Corinthians 13:4 (Love is patient...etc).  At the time, I'm not sure I understood the true meaning of this verse, mostly thinking it applied to the love of 2 individuals. Since then I've had ample time to wrestle with this verse, and I've come to view it in a different light.  While I still believe it applies to those closest and dearest to us, I've also realized how much more powerful, how deep, how broad sweeping these words truly are.  Christ called us to love not only those who love us, but our neighbors, our enemies, our friends. So, pretty much everyone. And if we take the definition of love that Paul gives in Corinthians, then that is quite the calling indeed. I'm not sure if there really was a St. Valentine (i bet google knows) but if there was, I bet this is more along the lines of what he would have wanted his namesake holiday to represent. To be patient with the clerk at Wal-Mart who is taking an eternity to ring you up. To be kind to the kid who just made fun of your haircut. To let that guy go ahead of you even when you're already late, cause you never know, maybe he's running late to. To not brag when you get the best grade, but to take genuine joy in the C student who squeaked out a B. To keep your cool when that guy on his cell phone cuts you off in traffic, and to let it slide when he does it again. And again. To always protect, to always trust, to always hope, to always persevere. Do these, and we can never fail.
Yeah, I think that's more like it.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Some Days

Teaching is a struggle. At least it is for me.  It's a struggle to reach each individual student, while making sure not to leave any behind. It's a struggle to keep those gifted students intellectually stimulated while making sure to not teach over the head of those who are not on the same level.  It is a struggle because on a day to day basis you are never sure of what is going to work and what is going to flop. It is a struggle because of the attitude some kids bring with them. Despite popular belief, it is not my job to be your personal entertainer on a daily basis.  It is a struggle to compete with the countless distractions at these kids' fingertips. Ipods, laptops, and cell phones are now standard issue for teenagers.  It is a struggle to overhear kids being mean, cruel, and spiteful towards each other. A week doesn't go by I'm not taken with the urge to grab a kid and ask if it is really that hard to just be kind to each other?  It is a struggle to overcome the feelings of inadequacy that creep in. Am I truly the right man for this job?

But at other times, it is a joy. At other times I am reminded why I wanted to do this in the first place. I am reminded these kids are all ready to be molded, and perhaps I am right where I need to be. At other times I am reminded of the lack of positive influences in these kids' lives. I am reminded that to be adequate is to show up, to let them know that there is someone who cares about them as people, cares about their success.  At other times I am reminded that they are just kids, and I like kids.
Some days, I really enjoy this job.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Middle School Insights

So I've been a full time teacher now for 6 months and I have an observation. Well actually I have several, but only one I'm gonna talk about today.
And it is this: Middle School kids will believe anything you tell them. And actually, you don't even have to actually TELL them something, just imply it. For example: I have my middle school kids convinced that I not only speak Samoan (which I most definitely cannot) but that I also completely understand this ridiculous little language that they made up.  The best part is, I never actually told them I understand either of these, they just assume I do.  And you may be surprised to learn I accomplished all of this without lying to them. For the most part.
"Mr. Heintz, do you speak Samoan?"
"I go to Samoan language class every week."( This was the partial truth I just referred to. I've only been to that class once, but I figured they didn't need to know that.)
"Oh, really? What kind of stuff do they teach you?"
"Oh you know, all kinds of stuff."
"Oh." They think about this for a second. Then: "Like slang and stuff?"
"Like I said, they teach LOTS of stuff." Which is true, I just don't happen to know what any of it is.

And that was it. They no longer think it's safe to speak Samoan in front of me, which is perfectly alright with me since I have no clue what they are saying.
As for the incoherent made up language, you would think convincing them of my fluency in that would have been a lot more difficult. It was however, much easier.

One day, as they were conversing across the room in this ridiculous tongue, I glared at one of my students with my best "I know what you are up to" look and simply said "Jermichael" (name changed to protect identity, and because Jermichael is a way cooler name) and to my surprise he looks at me, and then goes "Shhh! Mr. Heintz understands us!" All their heads turned in unison to look at me, and each face's expression went through a progression that can best be described as, "No way, that can't be true. But, that is so crazy, it must be true. It is true! He Knows! and finally, How the heck did you do that Mr. Heintz?!"
And as they went through this progression in their minds, I sat there smugly with a look on MY face that said, "You're dang right I know."  That's me, Mr. Heintz, vanquisher of ridiculous, incoherent, unintelligible languages.  Haven't heard a peep in that foreign tongue since.

Now they just hold their folders up over their faces and whisper so I can't see. Im confident a solution will present itself.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wilma, I think we should just be friends.

This weekend has been a weekend of firsts. As you may or may not be aware American Samoa was visited by Tropical Cyclone Wilma this past weekend. Now, Im not really sure the difference between a Tropical Cyclone and a Hurricane, but apparently there is one.  Feel free to google it.

Anyways, we got word on Wednesday that Wilma was on her way and would be here Thursday around noon. Well noon came and went, and the skies remained clear. Well, as clear as they get here, which is actually not that clear.  Have I mentioned we get 200+ inches of rain a year?
Next thing we hear is that the Wilma will be arriving Friday morning, then it was Friday afternoon.  Friday afternoon rolled around and the skies were sunny, but none the less some schools let out early, you know, just in case Wilma happened to show up in that 30 minute window of time they were saving.

Long story short, apparently Wilma, not unlike a lot of females I've known, was on her own schedule and finally decided to show up for the dance early Sunday morning.

The worst part of it all was not actually the storm itself, but the extended amount of time Bill (my roommate) and I spent waiting for her to show up. Neither of us having experienced anything like this before, we weren't really sure of what to expect. While people around us boarded up their windows, we took a look at our crummy apartment and minimal worldly possessions and thought "What's the worst that could happen? Our stuff gets wet?"  Call us naive if you will, but all we had was a hammer, lacking the nails and boards to finish the job.  However, one issue we knew would be a problem was the fact that several of our windows hadn't been closed in years and were either rusted open or missing panes altogether. About 3 A.M. Sunday the wind was getting pretty bad and I decided I should probably do something.  So I went to war on our kitchen windows. It was ferocious 20 minute battle, with the winds raging right outside, but I finally got one of them shut. Then I went after the other one.  By the time they were both shut,  I was thoroughly exhausted and didn't really care what Wilma did anymore.  I sprawled out on the couch, threw my hood over my head in case the glass broke (yes, that was my actual thought process) and passed out. The only time I woke was an hour or so later, to the sound of Bill nailing his yoga mat to the wall over some missing window panes in his room.

And thats about it. As exciting as a Tropical Cyclone may sound, it really wasn't. Wilma toyed with my emotions, was loud, temperamental, and late, but overall I'd say she was a bit of a disappointment. Not unlike a lot of females I've known.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The State of Things

 You'll find no solutions within this post, only reflections.  I thought it would be good as well as interesting for my students to do a journal entry on a current event and so off we went to the computer lab. The assignment was to find 2 current events on any of the websites that I provided and then respond to them in their journals. Why did you find this interesting/ what caught your attention, how did it make you feel when you read it, what does it say about the state of our world, and how was it relevant to you were the questions I asked them to respond to.   I told them as writers and as human beings it was imperative that they be aware of the world around them. That we as a race of people are connected and our writing is influenced by that.
As the period waned towards lunch time I had a vague feeling it wasn't going as well as I had hoped. Audible grumbling could be heard about how they didn't care about any of the things they were finding, but I was reluctant to intervene, I didn't want to pick the articles for them. With a few minutes left we met back together in the classroom and I asked them to share a little of what they had found. The first girl to raise her hand was one of the brightest students in my class. She also has the worst attitude, and is not always eager to share, but when she does it is usually very insightful. So of course I eagerly called on her and awaited her inspired response. "China is going to the moon."......... Ah, ok. How do you feel about that? "Good." Wonderful. I would tell you the rest of the exchange but it only goes down hill from there. Needless to say I don't think she got exactly what I was going for.  Not a problem, surely someone else will have something along the lines of what im looking for. Wrong again. Ill suffice it to say that the highlight of the next few articles was a Brazilian clown getting elected to congress, or something.   I was ready to just let them go to lunch 5 minutes early when finally someone raised their hand and talked about a bombing in pakistan and the children that were killed. 
During the in-suing discussion my students came to a general consensus that we as a society are desensitized to violence and as a result it doesn't effect us. Ok I said, that makes sense, but does that make it any less horrible. I knew the answer I expected to hear, but surprisingly that wasn't the response that came out.  Yes, they said, it does.  As long as it doesn't happen to us or someone we know, we don't care about it. It doesn't effect us so why should we be concerned with it? I can honestly say that caught me off guard, not to mention it was past time to go, so all I managed to muster was, "Really? That's interesting." 
Of course after they left, countless responses sprang to mind, all of which I wanted to beat them over the head with. But as I sat and reflected I realized more and more that we are all like that to an extent.  The parade of bad news that flashes across our screens every day at the most, makes us pause and reflect, before we move on and immediately forget.  Are these kids so different from the rest of us, these children who dismiss injustice and violence so easily.  Or, are they a scaled down version of each one of us. A version without the knowledge and foresight to know the politically correct way to respond to other people's bad news. The version we don't like to admit exists. Like I said, I don't have the answer, but it's definitely something to think about.  

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

East Germany

As much as I would like you to believe that I am currently residing in a tropical paradise, it's not always the case.  Now it is true that the running joke here is that there is no need for a weather update, the forecast is always a High of 87, a low of 78 with a 50% chance of rain. Everyday.  So that part isn't so bad.  It's the things they don't tell you before you come, like the fact that there is no escape from the bugs. And I'm talking big ones, like starship trooper style.

Another thing about this place is that it is Anti-America in disguise.  What I mean by that is that in a lot of ways Samoa looks and smells like the U.S. I know and love but not so deep down it's everything America stands against.  For example, I was eating at Mcdonalds on saturday for breakfast so I could watch a little college football. First, I order a mcgriddle and not so shockingly the lady tells me they are out of those. Ok thats fine, sausage biscuit it is. When it arrives it has cheese on it which of course I didn't want or order.  So when I take it back and inform her of the mistake she proceeds to look at me like i'm an idiot and tell me that a Sausage Biscuit comes with cheese on it, as if it were my fault for ordering it.  I kindly say no it does not and, just to make she sure understands, I point to the picture on the board of a sausage biscuit which oddly enough, is devoid of cheese.  I guess it's difficult to argue with a picture so she reluctantly gave me a new sandwich.   Well after sitting for a while I notice that it's time for a refill.  I head to the counter cup in one hand, lid in the other, you know the universal sign that I need you to fill my drink up.  Well the the lady looks at me like "can i help you?" Yes, duh, I need a refill. Oh what's that you say? I have to pay full price for a refill? I asked her a couple times if she was being serious and unfortunately for me and the rest of Samoa, she was.  The thing that really bothers me about this though is that I have eaten at this mcdonalds before and not had to pay for a refill. That's the problem. You NEVER know what you're going to get here.  It's like they just make up the rules as they go, and then decide to change them whenever they feel like it. Ehhh were running low on ice today, oh i know let's make refills full price. Would this ever happen in America? (Oh yeah, I've taken to calling home America, thus implying that this place does not count as being american, because it doesn't) You know, there are definitely positive aspects of being the anti-america, but we'll get to those in a later post.  For now, just know how good you have it Americans, cause on this island the most american of american institutions is communist in disguise.  This must be what the red scare felt like.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ok so the video of the virtual tour is on facebook, that's the only place I could get it to load. So Mom and Dad get Laura or Joe to pull it up for you.  In the meantime, here is a couple pics of me and Lynn on my birthday. He, Bill, David Willis and I had an engaging 2 1/2 hour dinner at the good ol Koko Bean, where the they make up for the incredibly slow service with really good food. If you notice, I'm rockin the Lebron James beard, so I've got that going for me.

Monday, August 23, 2010

So Im sitting here in class again as my students read and write away and the rain is falling gently outside the window. There is no air conditioning in my class and so the fans are always on and the windows always open and for right now it feels really nice. It will probably rain for a couple hours at most this morning, just enough to cool it off and then the sun will come out and the humidity will rise and things will be back to normal. This place is crazy like that, the mountains seem to trap the clouds and it will start pouring, almost out of nowhere, only to have them dissipate a few minutes later and have the sun shine forth again. This place really does have a special beauty, and the sad part is Im already finding myself getting used to it. I guess that is the same anywhere you live, but it seems especially a shame in a place like this. I find myself having to be reminded how blessed I am to be able to live in an environment such as this and to constantly be pro active in taking in as much as possible.

Anyways, me and Bill made a little video of our humble abode, and I do mean humble. This may not interest anyone other than my parents, and if thats the case well then you don't have to watch it. So without further ado, its Bill on the camera work and me doing the hosting.

Alright bad news. This video does not seem to want to load on here. Im going to keep working on it though, so check back later, it's totally worth it.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Alright, here comes my first of hopefully many more posts from American Samoa. It is currently second period of the second day of school and my 3 students are writing away about their goals for the long term, mid term, and short term future. This class is going to easily be the best behaved class I have, but also the toughest to draw out of their shells. It is made up of the advanced math students, which means that while the rest of their classmates are in algebra they are stuck with me for writing and grammar. The class is made up of 2 Korean girls and a Japanese American girl. They are all very bright, but also quiet. Coming up with activities that are going to challenge these girls as well as draw them out is going to be tough but I am up for the challenge!
Its only the 2nd day and already Im tireddddd. How do teachers do this everyday? Joe you have my respect, as if you didn't already. I do love that this is a private school because I play Acappella music for them while they work and there's not a thing anyone can do about it! They seem to like it for the most part I think so thats good, and it's uplifting to me as I can only hope it is for them as well.
P.E. yesterday was easily the best period of the day, for me at least. We are very limited on space here as far as a place to play games and such but I was able to come up with a makeshift wiffle ball field and so we played that. It was a blast. Unfortunately for me, we don't have PE every day but I suppose it will make it that much more of a treat when we do!

I'll write more about my experiences and the people I've met here in a later post but for now here are a couple pics that I managed to take with the camera on my computer. Yes, thats right, I have no camera here on this tropical island I'll be living on for the next year. Sorry!