Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Every Fifteen Minutes

...someone is killed in an alcohol-related car crash.

Today this point was driven home to the students at my school with the Every 15 Minutes program. Every 15 Minutes is designed to inform and educate students about the dangers of drinking and driving, using simulation and shock tactics.

It started at 9:03, shortly after school began. One of our vice principals came over the intercom to announce the death of a teacher at our school. After pulling over with car trouble, he was hit by a drunk driver and killed instantly. All juniors and seniors were then invited to the football stadium. It took a while to get nearly 1,500 kids in past a tarp-covered accident scene and seated. Once they were settled in, the tarp was removed, and the very real-seeming simulation began.

At first there was the shock of seeing two crashed cars, a two-door coupe and a minvan, one with the severed arm of a young man hanging out, the other with a young teenage girl sprawled face-down across the hood of the car, grotesquely sticking out of a shattered windshield. Blood dripped down the sides of the cars.

Then there was a whimper, and a scared girl crying, saying, "Is everyone okay?" She was in the back seat of the minivan with another girl, and they were both able to climb out of the wreckage and call 911.

We could hear the 911 call, and the subsequent dispatch call from 911 to the local police. Pretty soon several police officers rode into our stadium and got out to assess the scene. A fire truck came in, sirens blaring, followed by two ambulances.

It became apparent to the rescue workers that the two girls in the back of the minivan were okay. The driver was in some distress and could not feel her legs. The girl riding shotgun was gently removed from the wreckage, laid on the ground, and covered with a blanket.

"She didn't make it," was the somber comment of one rescue worker.

In the coupe, the firemen went to work with the Jaws of Life to remove the top of the car, in order to extricate the young man in the passenger seat--and his severed arm. The driver of this car was okay, aside from the suspicion that she had been drinking.

It was determined that the young man needed to be air lifted to a local hospital, so a Life Flight helicopter came to the DVHS stadium and landed on the football field. The driver of the minivan was loaded into an ambulance while the distraught mother of the dead girl was brought to the scene to identify her daughter's body.

We then watched the coroner load the young woman into a body bag to be taken to the morgue, while the officers gave a field sobriety test to the driver of the coupe. The two girls from the back of the minivan were gently herded to a police car to be taken to a safer place where their parents could come pick them up.

It was determined that the 18-year-old girl driving the coupe was, indeed, under the influence, and she was arrested on "at least one count" of gross vehicular manslaughter.

Pretty heavy stuff. Fifteen hundred people in those bleachers, and you could hear a pin drop.

Of course, it was all a simulation. The students involved in the scene were neither drunk, dead, or armless. The grieving mother knew, deep down, that her daughter was only playing a role. The rescue workers knew this was not a real crash scene, as did all of us in the bleachers. But it felt real. There was that part of all of us that wanted to cry watching a bright young woman being loaded into a coroner's van and driven away.

The students' involvement doesn't end there. The dead girl was actually taken to a morgue and processed. The other two injured were actually taken to hospitals, and the driver was taken to a police station and "booked."

Throughout the rest of the day, there were announcements every half hour that more students had been killed in alcohol-related car accidents. These students became the Living Dead. While still at school, they were isolated from everyone else, not allowed to speak to anyone. The only memory of them in class was a single red rose and a picture of the victim.

Parents of the students involved in the program were visited by police at work or home to be informed of the "death" of their child. They know in advance that their student is involved in this, but apparently it is still extremelly upsetting.

Tomorrow there will be a funeral. The parents are spending tonight at a retreat, writing letters to their children. The students are at a separate retreat--not allowed to go home--writing letters to their parents that begin, "Dear Mom and Dad, Every 15 minutes, someone is killed in an alcohol-related car accident. Today, I died, and I never got to tell you..."

Intense? Yes. And yet, perhaps the single most effective way to get through to teenagers that drinking and driving is dangerous. If it saves one life, that life is worth it.

Every 15 minutes...it just reminds us all to hold our loved ones close, and to make smart choices.

**Note** A huge shout-out to the Antioch Police, Fire, EMS, Life Flight and all local businesses who supported this incredible program. It's not cheap, it's a lot of work, and it's evidence that we are all working together to make our community a safer place.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sunday Morning


Who doesn't love a lazy Sunday morning? It is sunny out, and here I am, with the windows thrown wide open, in my pajamas. I had a cup of hot chocolate and some cherries that my neighbor brought down to me yesterday.

I'm enjoying the laziness while I can; this week promises to be crazy. Tomorrow after school I have a dress rehearsal, and on Tuesday, the concert. Before I can do my concert, however, there is a calendaring meeting for next year scheduled that I must attend.

Wednesday after school there is a meeting I can't get out of. After that, I am holding the dance auditions for next year's show choir. I hope to be out of there by 5:00, but...probably not. On Thursday, I will hold singing auditions for all students interested in being in show choir and/or my advanced group. Again, hopefully I'm out of there by 5:00.

Friday, then will be a welcome relief. I have some bank time on the books, and I am hoping to use it to take 7th period off. Because 5th period is my prep, this means I could teach 3rd period and leave school at about 11:00. I'm going to Lincoln for the weekend, so getting on the road early would be great, to miss the Friday Rush Hour on I-80.

The good news is that after this week, I am home free. We will have 3 weeks left of school, and those chuck-filled with activities that will take kids out of class, etc. No more choir concerts (aside from prepping the seniors to sing at graduation). I'm going to do a huge back-to-the-basics review of singing technique and music theory.

June promises to be a fun month. I have grand plans to go to San Francisco with Heather and some other gals the first weekend of June to see the Vivienne Westwood exhibition at the deYoung. My friend Shae is coming to California to see some family and old friends, and we have grand plans to go to San Francisco for a day--she's driven through, but never really seen it. I love playing tour guide, so we're going to have some fun.

So yes, things are looking up. Good times ahead! I'm even getting a teensy bit excited about the possibility of staying at my job another year. Nervous, but excited.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Five Weeks!

Oh yes, my friends, this here is a teacher who desperately needs a summer vacation!

I have to say that things are going pretty well right now. I've found my giggle in the last couple of weeks, thanks to a lovely weekend at Mom and Dad's, and another weekend of cleaning.

For Mother's Day, Mom volunteered to help me put my new desk together. She and Dad came bearing power tools. I had a lovely lunch from Panera ready to serve, so we ate and then got to work. The result is a very nice computer table with a hutch, a pull-out file drawer (for extra desk space) and a small bookcase-type thing. It is a HUGE improvement over the folding table I'd been using since last August!

At work, even, things are better. Like I said, I've got my giggle back, so the kids aren't wearing on me so much. This weekend they've got Senior Ball, so of course, all the talk is of hair and nails, dresses and limos, and how wunnnnnnnnderful it's going to be. Ahh, teenage romance at its best.

Aren't you glad those days are over? God knows I am!

I've started thinking in terms of next year, and I'm considering staying a second year. There are a lot of reasons. Just a few of them:

1. Wouldn't have to move (again). I like my apartment and apartment complex. It's a little oasis in the ghetto!

2. I have terrific colleagues. Awesome colleagues. We're a great team.

3. I'm...*gulp* getting some great ideas for Show Choir. Good God, I really have a Show Choir...how cheesy is that?! But anyway, I want to do the music from Rent with them next year, and I know they'll love it, too.

4. I'm not finding the job I want in the area I want to live. Period.

So that's where I'm at...right now. Give it a week or so, when I'm smack-dab in the middle of my upcoming Spring Choral Concert, and I might be tearing my hear out and swearing never to get near a teenager ever again. Their drama rubs off on me, no matter how hard I try to keep it off.

I'll get through my concert and then I'm pretty much home-free for the next few weeks. We have a ton of activities going on (senior class to Disneyland, Every 15 Minutes, finals week, a rally, Senior Ball, etc.), so it will fly by. Before I know it I'll be sitting on my patio with a margarita and a good book.

One can hope, anyway.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Forty-five Days...and That's a Good Thing.

Why am I heartily cheering for the judge who recently sentenced Paris the Heiress to 45 days in jail? Why does she annoy the snot out of me? Let me count the ways...

1. She screwed up, plain and simple. You do the crime, you do the time, right? Paris drove under the influence of alcohol, had her license suspended, and then violated her probation--not once, but twice.

She was sentenced to 36 months probation, alcohol education and $1,500 in fines.

Two other traffic stops and failure to enroll in a mandated alcohol education program landed her back in court.

Any ordinary schmuck who did this would have a penalty to serve. Being a silly little party girl with lots of money does not entitle a person to special treatment.

2. She sets the women's liberation movement back at least a decade. This is a 26-year-old woman who has been very active on the socialite and Hollywood party circuit since she was a teenager. She claims she was misinformed about what the legal mumbo-jumbo meant, and thought she was allowed to drive. Bull-kaka!! She may be The Steryotipical Blonde, but she's not that stupid.

Anyway, this is a woman who makes her living by making bad records and partying all over the world. Has she done one useful thing in her life? I doubt it. She's certainly not known for her charity work.

Oh, and her tag line is "That's so hot." Gah.

3. She's using celebrity as an excuse. She is reported to have tried using the excuse "I'm a busy person" when asked why she hadn't completed a court-ordered alcohol education program after her arrest for drunk driving.

Paris, hon, I'm a busy person. I plan lessons, work 8-10 hour days, plan concerts, deal with teenagers, keep my apartment clean, do the grocery shopping and the cooking. I keep track of my bills, pay my rent on time, and somehow, I even manage, without being a millionaire heiress to the Hilton hotel fortune, to find a freakin' designated driver if I'm going to be having more than one alcholic beverage!!

Kudos to the judge for not buying that lame excuse!!

4. The whole "I don't deserve this" and other whining. Okay, maybe it's just because she's reminding me of a high school student, but really, what does she deserve for driving under the influence and violating her parole? Seriously?!?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Wish You Were Here

I've always liked that expression: Having a great time, wish you were here. It's especially funny when said with a healthy dose of sarcasm. Which is how it pertains to my life right now.

I have had about the most "blah" week imaginable this week. By "blah," I mean don't-wanna-get-out-of-bed, what-am-I-doing-here, oh-good-grief-is-it-summer-vacation-yet? Yes, that kind of "blah." I woke up Monday morning and my first thought was, "I don't want to go to work today."

Yeah, yeah, I know, we all think that when the alarm goes off bright and early on Monday morning. But this thought was accompanied by a huge pit of unease in my stomach and the near-constant threat of tears as I got ready for work. Did I forget my antidepressant? No, I took it. Did I have a bad dream? No, but I did wake up twice having to pee in the night.

I don't know how to explain it. All I can say is that it's now Thursday, and while I've had some better moments since then, this week, overall, has been dominated by that "blah" feeling. I feel discouraged. Again, it's not something I can explain; it is what it is.

There have been some bright moments--it's not all doom and gloom in my world. I went to a staff social gathering at a local restaurant yesterday (we do it every full moon), and it was a great time. Tomorrow I'm going to Mom and Dad's for the weekend. Mom and I have grand plans to sit around doing puzzles, watching NASCAR on Saturday night, and to do a little bit of shopping (I need jeans). No offense to any of my fine friends in the greater Sacramento region, but this trip is a Mom and Dad trip. I don't really want to go out much. I'll try to catch up with everyone else soon, I promise!

And believe me, you don't want to hang out with me when I'm this "blah," anyway.