Sunday, June 27, 2021


I am fairly certain that I did a few things right by my father as I was growing up; however, I know that learning to drive was not one of them. 

To this day, I wince at some of the stupidity I exhibited as we drove our family car around the parking lot at Wheeling Park High School and on the one road in our neighborhood. I practiced driving on a stick shift. I am glad I learned to drive that way, but I was so terrible at pushing in the clutch and shifting the gear from first to second back then. Crunch! Grind! Halt! I could sense the growing disappointment with each of my father's deep sighs. 

The frustration melted from my father's face whenever I could successfully shift into a higher gear and move forward steadily. But, unfortunately, roads are not straight for very long around West Virginia, and I would eventually need to slow down to make a turn.

I grew up watching Speed Racer. Speed was so cool to me. I loved the way he would zip around those turns, repeatedly crossing his arms and spinning the steering wheel of the Mach 5 round and round and round. If anyone came too close or got in his way, he could bump them off the road, through a guardrail, and into a deep ravine. Speed Racer and the Mach 5 would just keep moving ahead on the road in front of them. He made driving look so easy. 

"Stop turning the wheel like that!" my dad would yell. "Never, ever, keep your arms crossed when you are turning! Slow down and move your hands! You are going to have an accident because you have no control over the car! "

I would give my dad this bewildered look as I sat with my left and right arms still locked across the steering wheel because I could not quite figure out the timing to move my hands around the wheel.  One problem had blended into the next. I struggled with down-shifting, so I took turns faster than I should, holding onto the wheel for dear life.  I was such a doofus. 

My issues with turns have followed me throughout life. From time to time, I find myself too close to a curb and ride over it. You see, I am terrified of making a wide turn into someone else's lane. I witness other people doing this all of the time. I am speechless as they leave a parking lot or make a turn at a light only to glide cavalierly into the next lane instead of carefully taking the time to stay in their own lane. 

"Wide turn. Wide. WIDE!" I can hear my dad's crescendoing voice as he tried to appear comfortable in the passenger seat, hoping that I would not lose my confidence. "If another car is coming, you will be right in front of it. That is their lane." While I still wanted to be Speed Racer, I knew my cartoon idol would never drive straight into an oncoming car. So I played small and hugged my side of the road, occasionally riding tires over a curb, eliciting a Bump! and Thump! from the car and a "Curb. That's a curb!" from my father. 

The world has changed since I struggled with the complexities of the clutch and making turns. More country roads and endless highways have opened to me, and more drivers have joined me traveling to their own metaphorical destinations. I learned a long time ago that a wide turn is just not suitable beyond the confines of a quiet road, regardless of how separate from the rest of the world we think we are. A wide turn can take another person by surprise, forcing him off his path. A wide turn can change a person's attitude and how a person sees the rest of the world. After all, we do not drive these roads and highways by ourselves.

Sunday, June 6, 2021



I have never been the best at relinquishing my control to the forces of life. I am definitely a work in progress. I fight a constant battle between maintaining the status quo out of a need for security and veering joyously off course to a different destination. Fear hinders me and propels me. Beauty and growth reside in the random nature of life, though. While I may not always have the understanding of life's mysteries that I crave, I find comfort in my own awareness of the ebbs and flows of life as they occur.

As a teacher who relishes scheduling and planning, I often find myself growing enraptured in the routine, myopically driving toward the end goal: a test, a project, a paper, or a presentation. I had a student several years back say to me, "Mr. Bucon, we are going to get everything done eventually. It is ok to take your foot off the gas." He was correct, of course. Destinations will always await the patient while the journey may offer more magic and significance.

Seinfeld, the iconic sitcom from the '90s, is full of those random moments. Honestly, the show is quite literally about the characters' reactions to the most random events, making it what George Constanza refers to as a "show about nothing." I remember one episode in which George is, yet again, complaining to Jerry at the diner about how pathetic his life is. Over coffee, Jerry and George amble and ramble about a change in philosophy for George which involves doing the opposite of whatever he would normally do. And so the show takes off from there with George having remarkable success in life by doing the opposite of his instincts.

So as I take one last look back at the past school year before fully embracing the summer months, I remember a week when I tossed my plans and did what George Constanza does, the opposite of whatever I would normally do. I had to brace myself for the unexpected.

I remember talking to Trey in my English IV class about The Boss Project. Why him? He and his friends loved music and had always been vocal about listening to some of the same music as I did growing up. So I pulled up The Boss Project on my computer for Trey to see. "Trey, give it to me straight. I have always wanted to do a Springsteen unit, and I just think this could be really cool." 

I was so uncertain about how this would play out. This project had second-semester seniors analyzing three of Bruce Springsteen's most famous songs, talking about them, writing about them, watching the incredible film Blinded by the Light, then completing a final creative project. In my heart, I knew it could be a great project, but I was so concerned about how a random project thrown into the mix this close to the end of the year would work with a group of kids a month away from graduation. I needed Trey's seal of approval. If he was in, I felt confident moving forward.

"Oh, Mr. Bucon. This would be so cool. They will love this." Trey's energy was overwhelming. Did he possess insights I did not have?

What happened? We slowed down, took our foot off the gas, listened to Bruce rev his engines, and enjoyed the ride. At one point I turned the smartboard over to Kayla and Trey as they led the discussion of Born to Run in each of their classes all on their own. I was AMAZED as I enjoyed all of the give and take these two had with their peers. I sat there annotating along with them, rarely saying a word at all, and marveling at the unexpected insights these seniors had not only about Springsteen's music but about life, love, working, and following their dreams. I never expected this. 

Blinded by the Light is a beautiful movie about Javed, a Pakastani teenage boy who is the same age as my students. He lives in Luton, England, where he experiences the same issues that many young people face today: conflicts with parents, finding a place in an angry world, and embarking on a future for themselves. Once we finished watching and discussing the film, we literally tore apart our study guides and used carefully cut pieces as integral parts of original and creative projects with each student sharing the lyrics and images that inspired them.

This was a school year when I desperately held a tight grip on the wheel, driving hard for a destination not always accessible on a road map. Whether I was doing this out of fear or desperation to keep a routine during which nothing was routine, at some point I was able to ease off on the gas in order to travel a more scenic route. And so it is with choosing to embrace the randomness of life. We take the good with the bad and are always hopeful a little magic will happen.


If you have read any of my blogs from this recent school year, you can tell it has been a challenging year and a half going back to the spring of 2020 when the year ended abruptly until the spring of 2021 when life in the world seemed to be finally returning to something normal. I was not sure how the year would go for me or my students. I will admit that I held onto that wheel a little tighter as the uncertainty of day-to-day and week-to-week education affected us all more than we care to discuss anymore.

I took these pictures of my senior classes at the end of the year after they received their Classcraft Mastery Certificates. (You will need to ask one of them to explain this to you. 😀) These students made my life so much better throughout the year as they were patient and kind when I struggled with everything teachers were asked to do. They buoyed my spirits on more than one occasion and supported one another during a year in which we could have used a little less randomness and a bit more predictability and routine.

Love you all. 🤗