Wednesday, February 26, 2014


It's the end of February and I am already so sick of baseball.  How can that be? Mr. D talks about it nonstop.  Varsity baseball, Pony League baseball, Cadet League baseball, tournament team, league play, try outs, who's on first, we're not sure who to play in the outfield, some kid is supposedly amazing in the 9th grade class so we should stop by the gym and check him out, practice schedules, playoff chances, new pitching drills.  Ugh.  Bloody freaking sick of it, and none of my kids have even tried on last year's cleats yet to see if they fit.

And then there are the Story Problems.  Like if 12 kids try out for League A but they dip down to borrow 3, how many kids will they need to bring up from League B?  Answer: Sweetie, Idon'tgiveashit.

Even yesterday, on my birthday, I was subjected to baseball talk and baseball emails.  It's enough to make a girl want to go back to work full-time just to escape the madness. 

So I will.  In one month I'll take over the classroom duties for a high school English teacher until the end of the school year.  How's that for keeping things interesting around here? 

Today I read a little story on Facebook about how Halloween totally freaked out some Ethiopians visiting Duluth, Minnesota.  This reminded me of a night many years ago when I was a new high school English teacher ...

It was the night of the first home football game of the year.  Autumn was biting on the edges of September, crisping the air.  The new teachers were bustled through a tailgating experience in the parking lot before their mentors guided them into the bleachers.  We were eager to engage in this hallowed tradition, many of us wearing new sweatshirts emblazoned with the school's name and mascot.  Our initiation rites into school culture were almost complete.

It's always an orientation the first time one enters the high school football arena.  Where do visitors sit?  Where do parents sit?  Where is the student section?  Does the band have reserved seating?  We climbed the metal bleachers and settled in for a few hours of excitement beneath the Friday night lights.  

The band began to play, brassy and loud and thumping.  A cheering squad positioned themselves on the track between the bleachers and the grass, rustling their pom poms and yelling.  The team jogged across the field to take a knee beneath a towering goal post and the coaching staff stood behind them with clipboards and playbooks.  I grinned and glanced back at my mentor--here we go!

Led by the band the entire student body and most of the parents launched into the school song, hailing the heroes of the gridiron and loyal sons and fighting for the orange and black.  I didn't know the words, but the tune was familiar. 

Suddenly a figure appeared on the far end of the football field.  Large and looming, white hood and robe undulating, it picked up speed.  A horse--a real horse--galloping across the length of the football field and on its back was a person draped from head to toe in white sheets. Horror masked my face and my blood froze in my veins.  Was everyone else seeing what I was seeing? The band still played, the fans burst into cheers and I looked over at the other new teachers whose shocked expressions mirrored my own.

The ghost rider paused for a moment in the far end zone and raised their fist in a salute to the roaring crowd.  Football players banged their helmets with their fists and raced to the sideline.  The horse and rider reared around and disappeared into the parking lot.

What the hell was that?  Will they start burning crosses on the turf next?

The mentors were doubled over with laughter.  I always love this part every year, one of them said.  The looks on your faces.  It's awful isn't it?

What sort of people use the KKK as their mascot?  All of the new teachers were appalled.  Our educator sensibilities had been carefully molded by professors who'd taught us to be politically correct and sensitive.  We'd all read textbooks stressing the significance of race and disability and gender and equality and our own biases had been called out over and over again in class conversations about why we need to teach Toni Morrison and Louise Erdrich instead of Nathaniel Hawthorne and William Shakespeare and the other dead white men.  In short, were stunned by the spectacle.

They don't even make the connection--they're the Ghosts.

And nobody thinks the white hood is maybe over the top? Pushing the envelope? Blatantly offensive?

The mentors shook their heads.  Northern Wisconsin, so removed from brutal history that they never question, never even make any association with their mascot and lynch mobs.

Actual galloping ghost statue erected in front of the high school a few years after I quit teaching there to raise Team Testosterone. 


  1. Um. I don't know what to say about that. I think I need to move to a coast.

    And, I can't believe you had to go to a football game as a new teacher. I never set foot in my high school stadium, and I'm a firm believer that sports should be divorced from academics --totally separate. Just this morning a FB friend was posting how the NIU coach is getting an enormous raise, while the faculty are taking paycuts. We have a serious problem with sports obsession in this world, and in the States it's often used to make sure people aren't thinking very much about the actual problems in our society, and then voting appropriately. Keep'em stupid and entertained.

    Sorry for my rant. Attending college at a Big Ten university, and now teaching at a community college, I've had my fill of mixing sports with education. I know people tend to come back with "but it's the thing that's keeping them in school", but that's just an even more sad comment on the state of teaching.

  2. In summer of 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama spoke in the gym in the KHS building. I remember standing in line to get tickets and hoping vehemently that the Secret Service would bring him in the back entrance so he wouldn't have to see that awful racist statue.

  3. That's unbelievable ; I bet your faces were a picture!

  4. love reading the comments here....a shame this didn't turn it the way I thought it might go, with the horseman with the pumpkin head: legend of Sleepy Hollow!

  5. The statue looks like the headless horseman from the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. But I know how awful you were feeling -- I nearly jumped up and dropped my laptop just reading this!
    Our first Halloween in northern Virginia, one of my younger sons dressed as a ghost. You know, old white sheet with holes torn in it for eyes. I was horrified when a man [admittedly drunk] asked if he was KKK while we were waiting for the nighttime parade in Leesburg, Virginia. I was even more horrified when we trick-or-treated at one house (our next door neighbor's) and was asked by the 70yo owner if the kid was dressed up as a KKK member.
    It still bugs the heck out of me.

    Is that the school where you will be teaching?

    PS: Books arrived today! I may not sleep tonight!

  6. OMG. If I was yelling, "THE KLAN?" based on your written description, I can only imagine what it was like to be standing there.

    In summary: I've kind of never gotten Wisconsin.

  7. So, I realize this article was from 2014 but I was just directed to it. The Ghost Rider you speak of did not wear white sheets. She wore a black hooded cape and mask. Granted, decades ago I believe a white sheet was worn but that was way before my time. Again - black cape with a hood. Not white sheets.


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