Sleep Patterns

I wouldn’t call myself a prophet.  I’ll leave that title to people like Samuel, Jeremiah, Elijah and those types. Despite my modesty, it is clear to all who listened just how wise an answer I gave.

As a father of young children, I know that rough nights are going to happen occasionally. It goes with the territory – that’s Parenting 101. I, however, knew this beforehand. When my wife was pregnant, people asked, “Do you want a boy or girl?”  I did not give the standard answer that you are supposed to give, “It doesn’t matter as long as the child is healthy.”  I told them, “I just want a good sleeper.”  Those who were already parents themselves praised my wisdom in making such a request. Most of them then laughed and uttered something like, “Good luck with that one.”

As I noted above, I know that sleep deprivation is part of parenthood and actually knew it before I was a parent.  However, these past few weeks (could be longer – losing track of time) have been particularly rough. Thank G-d, my request has been granted. My children are both, on the whole, good sleepers. However, something must be in the air as of late as these sound sleepers are off. Every night one of them crawls into my bed but never both. It is as if they play rock paper scissors during bath time to see who gets to crawl into mommy and daddy’s bed.  I wish they always played together, followed the rules and respected each other’s space so nicely. 

If my wife is reading this, I know what she is thinking, “You never put them back in bed.  You don’t even know they are there half the time. So, what do you care?” Not all true – I do notice them. However, what is even more detrimental is that they have changed me.  

Since I began my job over 8 years ago, I have always had to get up somewhere between 5:10 and 5:35. It is not pleasant – especially in the winter. Uggh – bring me the light. I don’t even want to think about that now. Anyway, typically, I am unable to get to bed before 11:30 which means on a normal weekday night, I get about 5.5 hours of sleep. Once upon a time, even writing that would have made me yawn. Now, however, it seems sufficient.  In fact even this summer, when I could have slept more, I barely did. I don’t even get so many extra hours on the weekend. Am I becoming old in yet another way? I can hear it now, “Oh no, I only need 6 hours a night. Even on the weekends, I just get up.”  I don’t want to get up, but it is just happening. I want to recapture the old glory. I want to lust for a good 9 hour night where I awaken with a yawn and a stretch feeling refreshed. I am afraid that this little joy might be gone.  I blame the kids with their night time escapades which have forced me to adapt. Thanks kids.

Who knows maybe this Friday night, after my first full week of school, I will sleep a good sleep?  Maybe my children will even sleep through the night in their beds. However, I don’t know as I cannot foresee what will happen in the future. After all, I am not a prophet.

Football is Here

“Are you ready for some football?” the jingle asks. My answer is YES!  Now technically, the season began the other night with Green Bay defeating New Orleans. However, the season is official when the team you root for begins. For the great majority of us, that is Sunday.

The Philadelphia Eagles are my team of choice. Well, my rooting interest was not a choice. Born into a sports crazed family in a sports crazed town, being an Eagles fan was thrust upon me. My first memory of the Eagles was a 1978 playoff game. They went up 13-0 on the Falcons. The only reason they were not up 14—0 is because they missed an extra point. I wasn’t worried and declared to my family, “no big deal. They’ll win this game easy.” I got stares and reminded to not talk till it’s over. Well, the quiet turned into ugliness when the Falcons scored two touchdowns in the last 5 minutes to win the game 14-13. “You had to talk didn’t you. Yeah, they are gonna win, don’t worry,” they mocked. What did I know – I was only 8,

I could fill a lot of space talking about Eagles memories, but I would rather focus on the upcoming season.  The team signed a number of players, and the expectation level has soared. The term dream team has even been mentioned in reference to them. Of course, the most recent incarnation of that term, the Miami Heat of Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh, lost in the NBA championship. I would like to say that I think the Eagles will live up to that term and turn in a season that many of us fans have been longing for (I asked a rabbi to offer a blessing for them before Super Bowl 39. He declined noting that the Patriots owner, Robert Kraft, was known for his charitable ways towards Jewish oriented charities. I should of recognized then that it was hopeless.).

I believe the 2011 Eagles will be an interesting team. They are stacked at a few positions particularly defensive backs and wide receivers.  In fact, I think their offense could be outstanding, but their offensive line is such a question mark that it is hard to see it being consistent enough. On defense, I feel good about their line and cornerbacks. The linebackers are a wildcard though and to hope for them to be anything better than mediocre is a stretch while the safeties will probably be merely okay.

So, the Eagles, my team of choice, should be good but probably not good enough to achieve championship status. Despite this, I am ready for football and am looking forward to watching this season.  Let the games begin!

Where Have You Gone?

At my alma mater, Pennsylvania State University, the head coach of the football team is 84-year-old Joe Paterno. This is well known to anyone who knows anything about college sports. Joe Pa, as he is affectionately known, was the assistant coach for 15 years before taking over the head coaching position that he has held for 46 years. Remember the movie “Gung Ho” with Michael Keaton, where he works for an American Car company that is bought out by a Japanese car company?  The Japanese display this amazing work ethic and dedication and stay with the same company for their whole working life. Does this type of longevity with occur even in Japan anymore?  Joe Pa seems to be of that same mind – work hard and be loyal — and Penn State has been rewarded with a competitive team, year after year.

This week marks the start of my 9th year at the same high school.  While in some ways it is hard for me to believe it has been that long, the grey sideburns are a clear reminder. My original plan was to stay for four years and then move on to another school. Well, for many reasons – mostly because it wasn’t meant to be – those plans went awry and I find myself at the same locale.   This longevity has allowed me to see many people come and go.  The assistant principal of English who encouraged me to come to the school, Mr. Becker*, has been a principal at another school for over three years now. Mr. Gordon, who I went through the teaching fellows program with, left the school after three years with the thought of pursuing his doctorate. I am working under my third principal and am now third in line in my department in terms of longevity.

While it is sometimes hard to say goodbye to my coworkers, it is the students who are actually my colleagues.  A certain bond develops from working with a student on a daily basis over a semester (and sometimes multiple semesters).  There are some students who are especially difficult; I am happy to send them packing and hopefully to greener pastures. Charlene was a different student nearly every day, but each was loud, volatile, and disruptive. However, there are some students who are a pleasure to spend time with, to watch them grow, to see them mature. As a freshman, Jorge thought the funniest thing in the world was a fart; by his senior year, he walked the halls with a briefcase.   Michelle was a class leader, an excellent writer, and an emotional basket case who let every emotion hang out.  Richard was perpetually writing and, in fact, was in the middle of his 6th book in a series which he imagined being 10 strong.

So, while I walk down the halls in this 9th year, I see the classes of 2012, 13, 14, and 15, but I also see beyond and remember the classes that came before them. I remember their faces and their stories even if I don’t always remember their names. I wonder where they are, what they are doing, and what kind of life they are making for themselves? Are they productive, proud, and fulfilled?

Hundreds of students have walked through the doors of Bernstein’s room. They may have left happily or grumbling. I just hope that the time we spent together impacted them in a positive way.

*All names have been changed.

Young Summer

Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer as they say, is just about upon us.  Of course, summer began, unofficially, on Memorial Day. How come you never hear about the unofficial beginning or ending of any other season? What is it about summer that sets it apart?

Personally, my favorite season is fall. I love the cool weather, the leaves changing colors, football, and many other things during this time of year. Winter, well I love snow but don’t care for those frigid temperatures – not a 20’s sort of guy. I count down the days till the season will end. I enjoy spring – green, nature seemingly reborn. But there is summer. Something about summer seems to affect everyone.

I have a thought.  Summer is the time of vacations, block buster movies, and long long days. Yes, this and so many other things about summer are true. Ultimately, summer equals youth. We throw off our winter coats, roll the car top down, turn up the music, and stay out late.   We are obsessed with youth, and during the summer, everyone is younger.  Summer meant or means no school, freedom, and independence. It’s as if we all revert back in some form or another to that school kid who was thrilled to be free of school – ‘no more teachers, no more books.’   How many work places have a dress down policy or a reduced work schedule during summer?  It’s freedom to do what we want.  While we might not do anything all that different, the possibility is energizing.

I hope your summer was one of fulfilled possibilities. I hope you rediscovered your youthful enthusiasm and utilized it to the fullest.  Enjoy the next three seasons, and remember to roll down the top once in a while.