Sunday, December 23, 2018


A Christmas Gift. Actually any gift for that matter. But for now, for the season, for this moment - a Christmas Gift. 

I relish the challenge of finding the perfect present for someone I love. What can I find that matches what this person has freely given me in my life? How much money can possibly be handed across the counter of a local store or charged through an electronically and emotionally distant Amazon Prime which will match what is in my heart? If you are like me, you probably grow entangled in the plastic emotion of the holiday season from time to time and require certain moments to bring you home again.

My friend Jodi and I joked last week during texts about how chaotic and stressful our lives were. She was preparing for her own family Christmas activities while juggling the stress of her job just as I was straining my eyes to read one more English exam essay while I fought the onslaught of sinus issues. We were both collapsing at the end of the day, praying for sleep that would never provide enough rest for the day to come. Jodi and I were both stumbling to some imaginary finish line of our own making. In these texts Jodi asked me if I liked  Tillamook cheese, and I immediately replied, "Oh, no. Jodi, we are not sending each other Christmas presents, are we?" My neck tensed as I dreaded the prospects of searching countless web stores for a present to air lift to South Carolina. We both agreed we did not need to exchange gifts, that our friendship and moments we had spent together over the years were presents enough. We both agreed to make sure we sent our annual cards. Jodi is so wise; I am, too. She may be wiser than I am though. 

The week rested on that conversation as I opened my eyes to gifts that I have been receiving all the time.

Teaching is full of the unexpected. Sometimes there are times when the papers and workload become impossible to juggle with the nearly one hundred teenage personalities who walk through my doorway on a daily basis. There are days when my eye-rolls become too numerous to count and weeks will end with my students gladly erasing the "Days Without Sarcasm" board hanging behind my desk. The ZERO has been there for more days than I care to admit. There are those minutes when I am praying that the bell will ring quickly so that those students who are "sanctifying me" will leave a little sooner so that I can break down without their seeing me at my weakest. 

But, there are those good moments we all miss when we are not present in our lives. For me, these are moments when a class embraces a project, creating something magical that I did not even see coming. These are moments when a class which has been a roller-coaster of emotions most of the semester settles down to complete one of the more thoughtfully written exams I have ever read. These are moments when a dozen students gather on a cold and rainy Friday night to sing Christmas songs to strangers at Center Market. This first semester ended quickly but left some wonderful gifts in my heart.

My friend Betsy and I took off to Morgantown this past Saturday. We both taught Chase Harler when he was at Central, and I had never had that perfect opportunity to go to WVU to watch him play basketball for the Mountaineers. Years removed from CCHS, Chase, like so many of the students I have been blessed to have in my classroom, is following goals he had set long ago, learning more about himself, his own drive, his own perseverance, and his own values on his journey. It was so unbelievable seeing him after the game at the Country Roads entrance to the coliseum. He hasn't changed much. Yes, Chase has his beard, his longer hair, and his additional four or five inches in height; however, he still retains that humble, genuine attitude to which people gravitate.

Chase is representative of what I, as a teacher, love seeing the most in all of my former students. I love seeing social media posts of former students graduating from college, students finding their passion in an office, in a kitchen, or in a school. I love those students returning from college to share how their studies are progressing and the new horizons they are exploring. I love to see students beginning their own family with a marriage proposal to or from the person he or she loves. These gifts are students finding happiness in their lives as they continue to discover their potential and the power they have in their own lives.

Finally, I can never forget important moments with family and the gifts which continue to be daily blessings. My trip to North Carolina over Thanksgiving to visit my son Robert and his family was surreal. I cannot begin to share the journey Robert has had in his life, but here he is working at Firestone, buying his first home, and raising two children with his wife Emily. I may be here in West Virginia, 500 miles away, but my heart continues to be connected there. 

I have family here in West Virginia as well. My brother Jim and Lisa live a short way over the hill with my niece Emily and Michael and, of course, Coop. My nephew Chris lives three houses down the street from me, occasionally asking me to "let Blue out" when he and his girlfriend Sami are on a date. Then there is Mom. God love her, but she gives me more than she realizes. The cookies. The occasional meals. The Sunday morning watching Bruce Springsteen on Broadway. We have had an identical talk that Jodi and I had about Christmas. "We don't really need to exchange presents this year, do we?" she asks. "We do so much for each other around here." Of course, she is right. Mothers are always right. (Just stop snooping around the house, OK?)

Life is full of moments like these. We need to slow down to experience and appreciate thoroughly these moments as they occur in order to leave lasting memories throughout our lives. No layers of colorful, shiny, or glittery wrapping paper and no amount of streaming ribbons or bows are necessary to make these gifts any more special. They are more than wonderful just the way they are.

Thanks again for everyone's support of My Corner of the World! I hope you, your friends, and your family have a wonderful Christmas!

Sunday, November 18, 2018



My English III students and I became engrossed in words like these as we began our exploration of The Legend of King Arthur several weeks ago. The magic, pageantry, and violence at the heart of this legend is enough to hold the interest of any of us; however, our journey took us beyond the legend itself, into a space in which we could honestly examine the code that the king, the church, and the knights themselves upheld as the ultimate pursuit. We asked ourselves if these qualities are ones which our present society continues to admire and whether or not each of us incorporates them into our lives through our own behavior and choices regarding who is seated at our own round tables.

As we began our nobility project, we had to gain an understanding of certain words beyond the dictionary definitions. Students these days can Google a definition in a heartbeat, but I asked them to provide a real and honest extended example of how they understand the meaning of each word. Unfortunately, I did receive many "I don't knows" initially. We persevered, having serious and humorous discussions about how they treat friends, the way they engage one another in social activities, the tone in which they speak to their parents, and the manner in which they speak to adults and strangers. Through these discussions we arrived at words like respect and honor.

As we dug deeper we rediscovered words like perseverance, determination, honesty, and compassion. Again, we can all define them, we can Google a quotation about them, but can we identify real-life examples, not those on television or in movies, but actual people in our lives who epitomize the best of these qualities? Can we articulate thoughtfully and confidently how we determine whether or not another person possesses these qualities? Can we look inside ourselves and recognize the qualities we are lacking?

We set about creating our own round tables. My students were not going to simply slap some names on a crest, color it, and move on. They were considering qualities important to themselves, reflecting about which people in their lives best exemplified these abstract words, narrowing down choices from across their spectrum of friends, siblings, mothers and fathers, teachers and coaches. I explained that this table could be one where every person could literally sit there, much as a group of friends would sit at a table in the cafeteria or a family would sit at the dining room table. I reminded them that they could also expand their vision, seeing people sitting at this table from across state lines, from different aspects of our lives, or from the great beyond. 

Ultimately, I wanted my students to see that each and every one of us has a choice about the person he or she wants to be. We have a choice to surround ourselves with people who espouse the values that we hold to be worthy of ourselves and of our society. We also bear a certain responsibility unto ourselves and society when we permit people to sit at our table who do not represent the qualities which we uphold. I do not ask them to indiscriminately toss aside people who are not as trustworthy as they should be, those who are not compassionate towards others, or those who lack respect towards other people. I ask them to hold them accountable. If we believe in qualities like honor, honesty, compassion, and dedication, then we must foster them in other people through encouragement and modeling those behaviors ourselves. People who are off track, who lack direction, or who need guidance are able to make better choices; eventually, better choices may lead them to a place which allows them to make the world a better place.

Our world has become an understood cacophony of influences. When I grew up in the Middle Ages, we had three to five television channels depending on how we adjusted the antenna(class, that was a wire contraption we put atop a big box of an old-timey television). We did not have cell phones and computers with instantaneous text messaging. We did not have Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. Those social media accounts were never available as a means of expressing ourselves, never an opportunity to reveal our character (or lack thereof), never a tool to make the world a better (or worse) place. Yet, here we are with more weapons than a knight ever had to represent that which is right, that which we should aspire to be.

The wise Merlin made sure that King Arthur had Excalibur to wield as the king of the land. Merlin guided his young charge who pulled this magical sword from the stone, expecting him to grow into the type of king who could unify the people. As I look at our Wall of Nobility spread across the white board in our classroom, I see a group of incredible students in the pictures, good souls living amidst the qualities they attribute to the people seated at their round tables. I see a group of young men and women who face a life whose quality and success may rest on the people they have seated at their table and those who may be added in the future. 

Each student will stumble and fall as we all do throughout life, learning to rise again and again. All of them will seek guidance and positive encouragement from the people around them whether they ask for it or not. Each one possesses his or her own Excalibur which offers the potential for greatness. As a society we must do more than hope our young charges and their Excaliburs are imbued with noble qualities. How will qualities like honesty, pride, perseverance, respect, and compassion remain intrinsic parts of our young people and who we need them to be if we do not nurture them every day?

I am still receiving positive feedback about my book My Corner of the WorldThank you so much to everyone for your continued supportIf you picked up your book on Amazon, I would greatly appreciate a review if you have the time. If you live out of state and are interested in a signed copy, there is a link at the top of my website. I am always humbled to sign anyone's book. Just contact me if we need to connect to do so.

Sunday, November 4, 2018


Keeping score. That is what spectators do at high school athletic events, right? Football? 14-0 or 24-7. Basketball? 62-60. Baseball? 5-1. Soccer or Hockey? 2-0. Depending on the sport, the scores are different. One point. Three strokes. Seven points. Fifteen points.

How about three minutes? Just three minutes.

I am one of many people who attend sporting events. I have been one of the parents supporting his child on the football field. I have been the scorekeeper and announcer for baseball and football games. At least one day a week, I am the teacher watching his students challenge obstacles and demonstrate determination outside of the classroom. I have been one of the many people who watch the score to check the time which remains in a close game, one of those stadium coaches who computes the scores needed to secure a win or mount a comeback. In the past I have become so caught up in the game at hand that I occasionally miss another athlete who is there at the game but not in the game, an athlete who cheers with the crowd but is not part of the crowd, an athlete who exists in the space between the game and our spectatorship. 

The cheerleader.

Seeing the cheerleaders on the sidelines for football and basketball games and leading cheers during pep rallies has become entirely too commonplace for many people. I personally know so little about their efforts behind the scenes, but I do know that cheering is so much more than simply tossing on a uniform, smiling for the crowds, and encouraging the crowd to support the team which is playing. 

CCHS cheerleaders cheer for the football team on a cold Friday evening 
even though they have their own regional competition the following morning.

I sat at the West Virginia Cheering Regional this past Saturday morning at Wheeling Park High School. This was the first time I attended a cheering competition since my basketball team had attended competitions back in North Carolina. Sadly, I wish I had chosen to attend these competitions more frequently.

These competitions are the cheerleaders' "games," their moments on the stage, the times when the spotlight focuses on them and all of the hard work they have invested. The absolutely admirable part is that the routines they present are only three minutes long! Three minutes of breathtaking flips, tosses, dance moves, and unbridled spirit! I cannot begin to ascertain the amount of time cheerleaders invest in their routines. How long does a cheerleader spend honing their ability to perfect back flips, mastering routines with their team, timing the catches and the tosses? How much time do they spend far removed from the sidelines of games practicing, practicing, and practicing for these three minutes? I cannot imagine.

How much time does it take to do this to perfection?
I saw Danielle standing proudly at center court on Saturday. She is one of my wonderful students in AP English this year, a senior who chose to come to Central Catholic High School last year when Bishop Donahue High School closed. She is the solitary senior on the team this year, a young woman who has made cheerleading a huge part of her life. There she stood hoisting that regional championship. I have to admire a young person who has been through such a challenging change in her high school career yet still maintains a spirited and enthusiastic dedication to a sport which transcends the schools where she cheers.
Danielle hoisting the regional plaque for all to see.
I sat at the top of the bleachers on Saturday with Boyd Bibey and his father Lance, both there to support Lane, their sister and daughter. Lane's mom Joyce sat down at the bottom of the bleachers amid the throng of Central faithful who came to support their cheerleaders. In a random moment, I asked Boyd how many points he scored as a varsity basketball player in high school. He told me with absolutely clarity "980 points." That is astronomical to me, a terrible basketball player, one who only scored two darn points in his entire one year career. I asked Boyd this because we sometimes look at athletes regarding the number of points they score and their wins versus losses. How will we measure what Danielle, Lane, their team, and all of the other cheerleaders around the city and state have accomplished? 

We must search beyond those three minutes. Imagine looking at an iceberg. Ninety percent of the iceberg is under the water. Ninety percent! We can see only ten percent of this huge mass, and yet we marvel and wonder at the entire iceberg, recognizing what is beneath the surface. Perhaps in our day and age of tracking points, hits, yardage, time remaining on the clock, and wins or losses, we should occasionally look to the cheerleaders for a remarkable example of dedication encapsulated in three intense minutes. Sometimes this effort goes unrecognized by masses who clamor for the numbers in high school athletics. Imagine a world in which everyone found a craft or passion for which they would labor so diligently and passionately in preparation for his or her three minute performance.

Central Catholic High School -WV Regional Champions
Good luck at the state championship December 8th.

A special thanks to Doug and Christy Costain for the fantastic pictures!

Thank you again to everyone for your support of my book My Corner of the World. All of the positive feedback is greatly appreciated. If you live out of state and are interested in a signed copy, there is a link at the top of my website. I am always humbled to sign anyone's book. Just contact me if we need to connect to do so.

Saturday, October 27, 2018


Last week the first quarter spun to an end before, yet it was not without the completion of some special projects that none of us had ever attempted, projects all about student perspectives.

Betsy Knorr, a fellow English teacher at Central, finds some unique projects from time to time and shares them with me. I love when we have time to hammer out how best to present them to our students. This is so rewarding for us as well as our students.

Betsy showed me this cool idea called “sketch notes” which we both decided to try with our English III students as we tackled the epic poem Beowulf. The basic premise of sketch notes is that the students concentrate on the content of a lecture or reading selection then create periodic notes which are quick pictures, stylized fonts, or unique bullets. This may look like simply doodling, but we both discovered sketch notes were much more.

So my classes and I read Beowulf slowly together. I would put a couple key words on the board as important ideas to consider. After that, I simply asked them to spend a few minutes creating a sketch note. As I moved around the room, I found each student creating a unique sketch note, an extension of his or her perspective of what we had just read aloud and discussed. We continued this same process, traveling through each part of the epic poem until we had eventually made a five to six page booklet of the entire poem.

The fascinating part of this entire endeavor is that all of my students were thoroughly engaged in this process. Typically reading a selection of this length can be a tedious process despite its adventrous plot. The note-taking itself is ominous to most students. This was a different process though, one which asks students to listen carefully, to consider what is significant to them, and to create a perspective they are comfortable expressing confidently and intelligently.

Thank you to everyone for their support for the book. The response has been overwhelming.

Monday, October 15, 2018


One year ago I began the process of writing My Corner of the World. This was such a cathartic experience for me. I was able to gain some focus and insight that helps me continue to enjoy a life which is guaranteed to have its share of failures, successes, losses, and triumphs. 

The past year has been an exercise in perseverance as I never thought I could write this book much more have the courage and vulnerability to share it with people. Thank you to everyone for your support, understanding, and encouragement.


You may be asking where and how you can find the book

This link will take you to the Kindle version:

This link will take you to the paper back version:

You can also check out my author page.


I have quite a few people request autographed copies and hardback copies. I think that is kind of cool and my "advisers" have suggested to go with the flow on these requests. Within a week or so I will add a link to address both of these. 

Sunday, October 7, 2018


Whew! What a crazy couple of weeks! 

Recently so much has been transpiring in our local community, across the nation, and throughout the world; however, nothing was going to prevent me from achieving the long-term goal I had set for myself over a year ago. I have been blessed with some remarkable beta-readers who offered invaluable input regarding My Corner of the World, my book which offers personal reflections on the changes I experienced during my first year teaching at Central Catholic High School. I have been processing their comments then tweaking some sections over the past weeks. My neck and eyes are sore from too much reading, my forearms are paying the price for too much time on the keyboard, and my mind has been thoroughly scrambled in HTML code while converting my work to eBook format. 😭😱😬😫😃😌😎 This has all been worth it though. 

Beginning Monday, October 15th, 2018, My Corner of the World will be available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle format. In the meantime, for anyone who might be interested, I have included an excerpt from a chapter in the book. 


Emily and her friends, the maroon and white clad senior class, entered the Great Hall, the recently remodeled cafeteria at Central which had earned the name as a result of either the swankiness of the décor or the fact that a huge, nearly life-sized crucifix overlooked us from the wall. The senior knights sat in groups close to the front of the stage but several tables removed from the microphone. We teachers sat along the side walls on higher bar-stool type chairs near accompanying tables where we kept a watchful eye on the students as we reviewed what we were going to say.

“Good morning, seniors!” announced Jeff Smay, a thin, wiry man, wound tight with an enthusiasm that was too uncool for these kids. Determined, Smay chuckled, pushing his black-rimmed glasses back up his nose. “God is good!” he shouted, awaiting a response.

“All the time,” murmured several of the crowd.

“Come on now,” Smay encouraged them as he haltingly laughed. “You know how this goes!” Then again, with impossibly more enthusiasm, squaring both his feet in spirited determination, “God Is Good!”

The students sat up, following the lead of Chance, a leader on the football team, a cut-up around school, a genuine article, and, right then, the loudest person in the Great Hall. “ALL THE TIME!”

Smay nodded his appreciation that they were now joining in and then finished the cheer, “All The Time!”

“GOD IS GOOD!” The students were now looking around self-consciously at one another and laughing, maybe being just fine with this tradition as a beginning to their senior year. 

I sat back in my chair. Now I was lost. For years I rode the history of who I was as a teacher at Fike High School, enjoying my reputation being handed down from older to younger siblings, from one friend to another, never considering that I would have to “introduce” myself to an entire school community again. As I pondered how to present myself, I witnessed the more seasoned faculty members here at Central comfortably take their turn in the spotlight, welcoming the students back with their own personal style which students had grown to cherish. History teacher Sally Beatty commanded the stage by leading the seniors in a “Maroon Knights” cheer then stoked their pride by shouting how “AWESOME” they were. Spanish teacher “Señora” Jan Grubler greeted them with a “Bu-e-nos Di-as!” slowly articulating each and every syllable, consonant, and vowel sound. All students, even those who did not take Spanish, repeated after her, earning a nod of approval and a nice, perfectly controlled smile from Señora. 

The parade of teachers continued to dwindle down toward me, this new guy who became increasingly nervous about just how to present himself. I plowed through the list of items I had wanted to say while looking for some clue, some random thought that was flying throughout my scattered brain. “Relax,” I thought. “Just be yourself.”

I had stalled long enough while waiting for nearly all of the staff present to move towards Julie Shively to grasp the microphone for their turn. I am not sure why certain ideas manifest in my mind. I often wonder if I plant the seeds myself or some drunken magical Puck sprinkles glittering dust in my eyes to enchant, and at times, curse me. 

Julie held out the microphone to me and smiled. “Go head, Mr. Bucon. Keep it short, OK?”

I bent my head down towards my shoes, wondering if my legs were shaking; then keeping my head lowered, I slowly raised my eyes to look at the senior class sitting out there, arms crossed, mouths clamped shut, looking back and forth at one another and then at me. I lifted my head, then cranked it around in circles in order to loosen my neck muscles. I looked at Julie and uneasily chuckled. “Sorry for this. You may want to step back.

Check back here for more information about the release next weekend. If you are interested in subscribing to this page, please sign up at the top of the page.

The book will be available at in paperback and Kindle format
on Monday, October 15th, 2018. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018


I disappeared from blog writing this past summer to spend a rewarding amount of time finishing a personal project I started back in the summer of 2017. For the longest time I have been revisiting my first year teaching at Central Catholic High School after spending over two decades teaching in North Carolina. I had a calling to return to those memories from 2012-2013 to find answers to questions I was asking about myself, teaching, and life. This effort became quite the odyssey so I am not sure how many answers I actually discovered, but I believe I have something special to show for all of this hard work.

Now I would like to share my discoveries with you.

I have completed a book entitled My Corner of the World: Life Lessons from the Classroom. This book is the result of my efforts to make some sense out of the changes I experienced in my life during that period of time. I am sure that many of the life lessons I have learned will resonate with the variety of readers of my blog.

Right now I am putting the final touches on the book while listening to the thoughts and words of some trusted beta-readers who are taking time out of their lives to lend me a helping hand in this labor of love. My goal in the coming weeks is to set a specific release date for middle to late October. 

I will keep you posted with notifications of the release date and the locations where you can find the book. Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I complete this final stage. I do have a tendency to obsess over small details for endless periods of time. I am sure my family and friends know this all too well. 😁

Sunday, June 3, 2018


Driving back home to Wheeling from Charleston on I-77 in the darkness Saturday night is a trudge of mind-numbing proportions. I had no desire to listen to music for fear of losing my semi-awareness in the lyrics, so I did a Sirius shuffle back and forth between my presets, remaining sparingly on CNN News, Fox News, and MSNBC just to hear a bit of the news of the world that I had missed while in Charleston for two days only to discover that not much had changed and that everyone is as cynical as ever. I landed on Howard Stern repeats for the duration of my drive, enjoying the conversations between Stern and David Letterman as well as Melissa Etheridge, both interspersed with a few hilariously raunchy comedic interludes. Howard Stern can be over-the-top sometimes, but some interviews with certain guests can be enlightening, not because I actually care about the conversations themselves but because they can channel the thoughts racing chaotically through my head, allowing me to process them to a conclusion I feel in my heart but am not able to articulate.

Remnants of the past two days and the recent weeks trailed backwards to moments in time as far-flung as two years ago. I flipped through pictures in the scrapbook of my mind, attempting to put them all together into what I was feeling. People do this at significant points in time. We dwell on those moments that are set in stone, those that give voice to the fading past, those that project visions of the future; we want to find meaning where others around us may say there is none, where others claim insights of their own that are similar to ours.

I am not even sure how or why I was pulled into this story. Two years ago, I learned my colleague and friend Jamey Conlin had a relapse of cancer, thrusting his life, the lives of his family and friends, the lives of students, and the lives of his team into a narrative that everyone tried to will to a suitable ending through sheer determination and dedication, one which would enable everyone to say they "did it," achieving something intangible for JC. We can all exist in our own realities, but when our own timelines cross, when expectations and dreams become one, we find there is more to the story than meets the eye. Three trips to the state championship tournament, three separate stories with a rotating and returning group of knuckleheads, three losses that all contain victories of their own kind. Remnants.

Beth Brown represented the majority of the senior parents in attendance there. She stood guard of both the game and her emotions, well above the stands where her parents who traveled from Vermont to be here sat. Her arms were crossed in nervous defiance of the slow dwindling of time, and she paced back and forth, wearing a groove in the concrete pavement in an unconscious attempt to stay present in this moment. I asked how she was doing, knowing the answer without even having to ask. "I just want them to do this, but I really want one more game because this is the last time I will watch Pat play baseball." How do you respond to this? You smile, give her a hug, say that she will never lose the memories, then encourage her to enjoy the moment. 

I watched the game sitting between two other senior parents, Bob Furka and Lorraine Clark, both dealing with the final moments their sons would play on the diamond as high school students in their own unique way. Bob hid his enthusiasm (but not his pride) behind his sunglasses, tuning out the humorous chatter of those around him by plugging earphones in to listen to the game on Metro News while dodging errant warm-up throws from the other team and his son. He would pull out his camera to capture the press picture of his son Chris on the scoreboard. Lorraine Clark crocheted square swatches of yarn with an absolutely huge twine of white yarn resting in an upturned black umbrella beside her. She kept wondering if Dougie had made the sign of the cross and said his Hail Mary's each time he came to bat, quietly berating him when he successfully caught a fly ball because he was doing so one handed.

Levi Rine, an insanely funny and insightful fourth grader, made his way down to my front row seat during the game to point out a cloud formation in the sky to my right. "Hey, fifth cousin, look up there," he said while pointing to the sky. "It is Coach Conlin up there watching the game." I looked hard, struggling to see the image of Jamey in the clouds but not wishing to tell Levi I couldn't. "Wow, Levi," I agreed. "That is so cool." He left and I glanced back at his older brother Isaac who had been on this same field playing the past two years in this tournament, achieving his own victories while overcoming his own personal obstacles. I smiled uncomfortably, and I think Isaac knew that I just did not see anything there. Later Isaac slipped down and helped me focus better, pointing out that it was not his image but the letters JC in sky. 

The thrilling championship game ended with Central on the losing end of a 4-3 score. I had prayed for a better outcome, hoping that this last group, many of whom had been members of Jamey's last team, would finally have satisfaction. It did not happen. I was worried about Bryan, the son of my childhood friend Lynn Courts. He had written a lengthy research paper this year in senior English, creating his own well-supported argument about what he perceived as the ill-conceived notion of giving participation awards. He made it quite clear that he absolutely hated second place trophies. Two years ago, the ever-intense Bryan attempted to toss the plaque into the garbage after the championship game loss. He was so focused this year and even asked me weeks earlier if I would write a blog about this year's game. I am sure he did not anticipate the content of this one but will hopefully grow to understand the point I am trying to make even if I do not.

Christy Costain looked so tired after the game, caught up in this loss. She held the CCHS blanket and maroon and white pom-poms in her arms. Her son Chris was out of commission for the latter part of the season as the result of an ACL tear that would require surgery. I know Chris wanted to be out there so badly, hobbling around and throwing the ball during warm ups. That cannot be easy ending your baseball career on an injury. After I spoke to Christy about how great a season it was, she said quite eloquently that she wasn't entirely sure about how she felt. "I know they wanted to win for Jamey, but I think "Keep the Faith" means something else. We need to keep the faith in all times, not just when things are going well. It would mean more to Jamey that these boys kept the faith when things are tough like this. That's what they need to remember." If she had a mic in her hand, Christy could have dropped it right then and there.

As the crowd gathered around the team on the pavilion, Isaac Basinger and his mother Amy stood together looking out at the site of his final moment in baseball. Isaac is one heck of kid. He was not a major player on the team, but Isaac did emanate the spirit of the team at every moment, cheering on his teammates and doing some quirky bizarre celebratory dances. Amy shared a touching picture of Isaac and herself on Facebook, commenting about the memories they made and the lessons they have learned. The picture speaks of so much that has happened not only on this day but throughout the years: the team, the community, but most importantly, the family. A picture like this speaks of the transitory nature of life itself and opportunities we have to take a beat, to breathe in the moments during which change occurs, to recognize not just where those we love have been but to experience the love we all carry with us regardless of where we will travel.

Remnants. We have these remaining when all is gone, when the dust has settled, when the tide has receded after a storm. There is a new horizon in store for each and every one of these players, actually for all of us when one part of our lives draws to an end. I set out writing today with the hopes that I would discover some words of finality for myself, but I may need to be satisfied with this, the remnants of these remarkable moments themselves and the promise that the ultimate meaning will actually develop over time.

Amy Basinger and Beth Brown

To the guys on the team, the coaches, and their families. 
It is hard to include everyone here today but please know
that your hard work, thoughtfulness and dedication are inspirational.
Keep the Faith.

Saturday, May 26, 2018


I woke up at 4:00 AM this morning, far ahead of the alarm which I had turned off before dropping into bed last night. I am tired but full of energy. Maybe I should not have taken that B-Complex supplement and Tylenol before crashing. Maybe I should have just come home sooner. I am not sure of any choices I make sometimes, but I can definitely live contentedly with them all.

Over a dozen hours earlier a mid-day nap did me in. I never should have taken that nap, but I was so tired. I do not know what I did at school today, sorting through papers I forgot to give back, the ones with random notes to seniors who would not be walking through the door next week. Half asleep, emotionally depleted, I spent the morning putting stacks of card-stock and art supplies on a back table, moving AP practice booklets from one spot to the next, counting locks from my homeroom hoping to find the one which one of my sophomores lost so she won't have to fork out twenty bucks to replace it. I munched on far too many puffy mints yesterday morning. The empty room got the best of me.

That afternoon at home I texted Betsy I was having my end of the year meltdown. Yes. I was crying. Screw you if you are laughing. Be a teacher for a year. Push and prod ninety seniors with varying levels of exasperating yet endearing personalities to the finish line. Read 90 papers on a weekly basis, searching your mind for compliments and constructive criticism until you think you are repeating yourself over and over and over again. Clean up after them because they dashed out of room without realizing the mess they have left behind: the papers, candy wrappers, Chromebook chargers, and chairs out of place.

I read through my texts and emails during my meltdown, wiping away the remnants of the emotional roller coaster of the past year. I forgot to send Becky and Mary my two goals for next year. Ugh. I started to formulate some goals. How about this? I quit. I know I have sent you those Indeed job links so many times in the past when I did not believe in myself anymore, when I did not think I could climb those stairs one more damn day, when I did not think I could explain MLA again because my students' honest efforts were tainting my understanding of referencing to the point that I was starting to believe I was wrong about everything that is my life. Facebook Messenger popped up on my phone; I found a message from a parent. I have taught two of her children with the second one graduating this year. It is a heartfelt message, one in which she appreciated what we had done this year: the scrapfolio, the discussions, the presentations. I am not going anywhere. I am not quitting. I roll off my bed, turn on some Bruce, and dress for the Baccalaureate Mass. My day is not close to being done.

I am a joker, too much of one sometimes. I hide behind sarcasm and silly quips to disorient people to avoid that feeling of being too close. Amy insisted I get that t-shirt, the blue one with bold lettering which reads "Saracasm: It's How I Hug." That's me. Unfortunately that sarcasm does not always allow for the transparency of which I should probably have more in my life. The students and faculty were gathered in the cafeteria, dressed in our robes and lined up in alphabetical order. I was joking again too much so Becky gave me a job to walk around and remind each student to sign the picture for Monsignor Ostrowski. I hate mindless jobs, but Becky knows when I need one to occupy my racing mind. So I walked around the cafeteria, stopping to remind each of the seniors I spent the long year teaching to sign the picture. Of course, they rolled their eyes, laughed because they knew what I was going to say before I even arrived, "Yes, Bucon, I signed the picture." We'd find our way into conversations about other random items: the robes, the unshaven faces, Classcraft points, and puffy mints. 

A half an hour later I sat in Baccalaureate Mass. I watched as these really great kids, ones who have worked so hard, ones I have thrown out of class, ones who were angels and others who were not, ones who have proudly represented the school and community on so many occasions, ones who have achieved so much. All were dressed in maroon or white graduation gowns. I was so tired. My mind was racing, tracing back my steps from the past year. I lost myself in some odd fugue state as the students began the rose ceremony, the first group placing a collection of roses beneath the picture of a beloved classmate lost tragically four years earlier. The seniors then all took one rose, one precious rose, to carry to their mothers, a symbolic presentation which recognizes the love and sacrifice a parent makes. Those who had lost mothers quietly placed their roses at the feet of the Blessed Mother. Life tires me. I always quiet my inner cynical voice in moments like this. A moment of respect, of love, of reflection. I disappeared into my thoughts of the lives that these young people have lived and all the high and lows they have experienced, feeling a sense of pride and admiration for their having traveled so far. 

"Bucon. Bucon!" someone whispered in front of me. I looked up and there is Brent, a student I have taught for two years. Brent and I have argued, he has given me the silent treatment, I have written countless referrals for his attitude and behavior, he has stomped out of my room when angry, and we have both engaged in an endless power struggles. Brent has also come to me for help and advice, he has found his voice in his writing, he has planned his future, and he has discovered a confidence in himself in the classroom that matches his confidence on the basketball court. "This is for you," Brent smiles, tilts his head, and walks back to his seat on the other side of the church, leaving me with a rose, one precious rose. Transparency is all it is cracked up to be.

It is now 5:30 in the morning. Damn. Stupid birds are chirping outside the window already! I am still tired but have burned off some energy so that I can go back to sleep for a few more hours before graduation this morning at the amphitheater where I hope the clouds hold off until the students get their diplomas. It is going to be an emotional morning, one which I have experienced before, one which takes on different shades of meaning every year, one which makes me feel younger than I was two hours earlier, one which gives me hope that I can do this a while longer.