On-line Opinion Magazine…OK, it's a blog
Random header image... Refresh for more!



January 28, 1986

Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF

Michael J. Smith, Commander, USN

Mission Specialist:
Judith A. Resnik
Ronald E. McNair
Ellison S. Onizuka, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF

Payload Specialist:
Gregory B. Jarvis
Sharon Christa McAuliffe


1 JimD { 01.28.10 at 2:10 pm }


2 Badtux { 01.28.10 at 4:58 pm }

The day I realized we were never going to have a space program capable of getting human beings into space on a routine basis, but, rather, a space program consisting of putting human guinea pigs onto highly experimental testbeds with a bad habit of blowing up from time to time.

Woulda, coulda… what would have happened if Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan had not penny-pinched the space program to death? If Wernher von Braun had managed to train successors to himself and his team that were competent and capable? We’ll never know, I guess… but somehow, I suspect we would have had fewer dead astronauts from exploding space shuttles.

BTW: What’s with these orange Florida Republican politicians? Are they trying to imitate the Florida state fruit, or what?!

3 Kryten42 { 01.28.10 at 8:31 pm }

This still makes me angry to this day. It never should have happened.

I can still hear the music ‘Ron’s Piece’ (originally called ‘Last Rendez-Vous’) by Jean Michel Jarre that he wrote for the Rendez-vous album and concert in Huston.

From the wiki:

Jarre worked with several Houston-based astronauts including Bruce McCandless II, and former Jazz musician Ronald McNair, who was to have played the saxophone on “Rendez-Vous VI”, recorded in the weightless environment of space. McNair was to have performed at the concert over a live link, but was killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster on 28 January 1986. Immediately following the accident consideration was given to the cancellation of the concert, but Jarre was contacted by McCandless and urged to proceed, and to mark the event as a tribute to the crew of the Shuttle mission. Following the Challenger disaster, the piece was recorded by Kirk Whalum and retitled “Ron’s Piece”.

I remember just before take-off, Ron calling me in Paris saying “Everything’s ready, see you in a week’s time, watch me on television for the take-off”…I will really, keep always, the bit of Ron’s smile and Ron’s face in my heart
—Jean Michel Jarre

Kirk Whalum was a friend of Ron’s, and was asked by Ron’s widow to perform the piece.

There is a quite good YouTube vid of Ron’s Piece. I think Kirk outdid himself, as is to be expected really.

Jean Michel Jarre – Last Rendez-Vous (Ron’s Piece) – “Challenger”

Some of the comments show the depth of the tragedy felt all over the World.

The Challenger disaster was even worse because of the fact, that unlike many other shuttle launches, the launch of STS51L was broadcasted in schools and was widely covered by media because of C. McAuliffe as the first teacher in space. Respect to the Challenger flight crew from Czech rep.
— flyvid

I still get chills listening to this

im learning this piece on soprano saxophone, its an interesting piece, i prefer it to what i usualy play

indeed it was to be the first ever recording from outer space, composed jointly by Ron and JMJ and to be played by Ron from space. it makes my eyes water to hear it as it means so much and it now stands as a homage to the crews bravery.

And of course, there was Sharon McAuliffe. The first *ambassador* of the NASA Teacher in Space Project. Teachers must be a lot braver than I’d ever given them credit for. There were over 11,000 applications from teachers for this spot on the mission. 🙂

A tragedy on so many levels. These two in particular, they were just *ordinary* civilian’s on a very exciting journey.

It’s no wonder that NASA is now, and for many including myself, will forever be a joke and a bunch of murdering criminals.

4 Steve Bates { 01.28.10 at 10:58 pm }

I don’t know that there’s anything new to say about the tragedy itself beyond what you’ve said above. Everyone here remembers what s/he was doing when we learned of the disaster.

As for the JMJ concert, yes, of course, I was there; I had a great seat on the bank of the bayou not more than, oh, two miles from the stage (and not closer than one mile to the nearest speaker stack). JMJ wore goggles and gloves to play some sort of light organ. I managed to restrain myself from throttling the several idiots who insisted on listening to the concert on their boom-boxes, which of course were not even remotely in sync with the live (and therefore distant and delayed) music. It took all of us over two hours to get home, an hour walking out of the downtown area and through Montrose, and another hour driving from there to a home still not all that far from downtown. Still, if anything good came out of the entire tragic event, the concert was worthwhile.
.-= last blog ..Very Early Friday Guardian And Observer Blogging =-.

5 Steve Bates { 01.28.10 at 11:07 pm }

Oh, and Kryten, it’s “Houston” not “Huston,” and the first syllable does NOT rhyme with “House.”
.-= last blog ..Very Early Friday Guardian And Observer Blogging =-.

6 Bryan { 01.28.10 at 11:41 pm }

My GuvI can’t imagine what you are referring to, Badtux. The governor is Greek, and that is supposed to explain it for some reason.

It was a known problem, but they went ahead outside of recommended limits because of the media coverage. That was the Reagan era – faux tax cuts, and photo ops. All the big money was wasted on worthless weapons systems,

We had the people, but not the politicians, to really explore space. The anti-intellectualism was already affecting decisions on research.

7 Kryten42 { 01.28.10 at 11:54 pm }

Apologies for the typo Steve. I know you are a perfectionist 😛

I was in a hurry, not time to spell-check, not that I usually do anyway! 😀
…”you say tomato, I say tomahto”… 😛

FYI… January of 1986 was when I’d arrived in the USA to work and train at GD (officially anyway) for about a year. There was much excitement at GD, and after all the induction stuff, I and my two companions were invited to Florida to watch the launch. Of course we agreed. We were originally intending to arrive on the 22nd, but the launch was delayed until the next day. We arrived on the 23rd, and the launch was again delayed until the 24th, and then again until the 25th.

I remember it vividly. I was a trained observer, and I observed many things around me from GDs privileged vantage point at the launch site. I remember the terror and fear on the faces of the exec’s and engineers around me. I’d seen such looks before.

I remember watching through binoculars as Challenger disintegrated and fell into the Atlantic off the coast of Florida. I learned later that not all had died in the initial break up. Some had survived until the crew compartment slammed into the ocean. There was no way of escape for them.

So yes, I understand vividly what happened, and it’s why I am still angry to this day. It was the first launch I’d ever seen in the USA, and it will forever be my last.

Just to put things into some perspective. 🙂

I sometimes wish I’d gone to the concert (it was an option actually when someone mentioned it and I commented that I was a fan of Jarre and would love to go to the concert, and as an ex-muso myself, being at a unique concert where one of the musicians is in space… well! A once in a lifetime event I was sure! But, I was virtually coerced into being present at the launch. *shrug* I spent some time being debriefed. I was too angry even though I was very good at controlling my emotions usually. I couldn’t stop feeling that those who died didn’t deserve my pretending in any way. Honor is honor.

8 Bryan { 01.29.10 at 12:06 am }

The aerospace companies have become like the banks – too big to fail. No one can break into bidding because it is rigged for a small group of huge conglomerates.

If the Branson/Rutan venture is successful, it will show what the small companies can do.

The Europeans can take over the space trucking business, and the astronauts can book flights on Virgin Spaceways.

9 Kryten42 { 01.29.10 at 1:07 am }

I should have added that the launch was again delayed until the 27th, but was again delayed due to a faulty microswitch, and it finally took place on the 28th. Just in case anyone thinks I thought it was the 25th. *shrug* For the sake of accuracy. 🙂

I remember that there was some concern on the 28th about the launch, because it was unusually cold in Florida and very close to the minimum for a launch. Engineers in particular from the manufacturer of the SRB’s, MT, voiced serious concerns. There were several conferences and discussions with various engineers (including GD) and NASA exec’s and the engineers (almost unanimously) concluded that they didn’t have enough valid data at that temperature to approve the launch and that it was too risky. However, their concerns were brushed aside by NASA managers as there had already been several delays, and the order to launch was given.

BTW, I overheard some exec’s complaining that the reason for the initial delays were not because it might rain as the media were told, but because the veep G.H.W. Bush wanted to watch the launch on his way somewhere (I don’t recall where he was flying off too).

An engineer at GD told me some time later that if the launch hadn’t been delayed waiting to the veep and Challenger had launched a few days earlier, they disaster probably wouldn’t have happened.

10 Bryan { 01.29.10 at 12:51 pm }

It was a well-known problem to owners of VW Bugs in Alaska – rubber O-rings contract in the cold and don’t provide a good seal. Actually, most of the gaskets on engines in Alaska are useless if you don’t warm it up before you try to start it, air-cooled engines just make the job harder.

It wasn’t the temperature at the time of launch, it was the fact that the engines didn’t have the time to warm up from the lower temperatures the night before, especially perched next to a huge tank of liquid gases, no matter how think the insulation.

11 Steve Bates { 01.29.10 at 7:32 pm }

Kryten, it’s not that I’m being a perfectionist; it’s that you tripped on a regional sensitivity as old as I am and as unjustifiable as mispronouncing “Brisbane.” Philadelphia is the sixth largest city in America, and every schoolkid is taught both to pronounce and to spell that city’s name, presumably because of its historical associations. Houston is America’s fourth largest city, and in at least one sense was truly Space City, before Reagan trashed the program. But no one teaches schoolchildren how to pronounce “Houston.” I think it’s understandable that we get a bit “tetchy” about it sometime. But don’t take me too seriously… “Huston, we don’t have a problem.” 😆

12 Kryten42 { 01.29.10 at 7:51 pm }

😆 Don’t worry Steve… I meant it in the *good* sense. I wish more people WERE perfectionists, maybe some of them might actually have a clue. 😉 besides… I usually am one myself. Usually… 😉

And yes, I do know how sensitive Texans are about several things. 😉 A bar my friends and I were in got busted up because some fool started mouthing off about Aus being some tiny island somewhere, and I pointed out that his dinky little ranch was no match for out Homesteads, one of which, the Smorgon homestead, was actually bigger than Texas! I admit, it probably wasn’t the wisest thing late in the day when pretty much everyone was at least half-pissed… But I got annoyed easily in those days. Ws only a few years after we returned from our tour in Cambodia. PS. A bar full of half-drunk Texans is no match for three trained Aussie special services types. We were a bit busted up ourselves, we did try not to actually kill anyone. Makes it difficult… 😉 😛 😆 GD decided never to send us to Texas again and we spent most of our time in MA. Was pretty, but kinda boring I must say, though MIT had some pretty cool toys to play with! 😀

SO… Houston it is! 😉 (and I did know how to spell it. It WAS just a typo. I need a new KB, seriously! That’s why you’ll occasionally see a letter missing. If I catch it, I’ll fix it.)

Actually, the WORST place we were sent, was Kansas! Spent time around Wichita & Kansas City. Lot’s of USAF stuff in Kansas. Lot’s of ICBM’s too! (At least, there were back then).

13 Bryan { 01.29.10 at 10:20 pm }

I want to hear the recording of Sam pronouncing his name.

His family were Scots and they settled among other Scots, so I would think that his pronunciation would be quite different than a modern Texan.

[Just being a PITA on a stormy Friday night.]

14 Steve Bates { 01.29.10 at 11:54 pm }

Bryan, Samantha didn’t pronounce her name, but two evenings ago, she wandered into the den and said distinctly, “Hello? Hello?” At the time, I hadn’t had a single thing to drink…

15 Bryan { 01.30.10 at 1:01 am }

Yeah, right… 🙄

16 Kryten42 { 01.30.10 at 7:43 am }

BTW Steve… I meant to comment about JMJ’s instrument you mentioned. Yeah… I *REALLY* wanted to go to the concert rather than the launch. Honestly, I figured there would be plenty of chances to watch a launch, but only one to go to a concert where one of the artists is playing in space and JMJ was playing his new toy which he called a ‘laser harp’. It was apparently invented by Bernard Szajner for The Concerts In China. (It even has a Wiki – What doesn’t?) 😉 🙂

Unfortunately, my real bosses back here insisted we attend the launch. Oh well… part of me wishes I hadn’t been there, but part of me is glad I was. I learned some things. One event that happened after the disaster was that we (GD personnel) were herded into a guarded room and we had to wait until some official came in with a bunch of long-term NDA’s for us to sign.

One day, possibly when I get diagnosed with some terminal illness, I’m gonna write that expose on my years in MI!

17 Kryten42 { 01.30.10 at 7:49 am }

PS. If you are interested, Little Boots has a 3-part tutorial about her journey to build her own Laser Harp! 😀

Pretty cool! Wish I had time for all this stuff. maybe one day… 🙂

18 Kryten42 { 01.30.10 at 7:51 am }
19 Steve Bates { 01.30.10 at 4:25 pm }

Thanks for all the links, Kryten; I’m afraid my days of building instruments are behind me. (Yes, I did build a harpsichord. All of it. Never again… 😆 ) Looking at the wiki and seeing the pic of JMJ in Helsinki, I can only wish we had had a sky as clear as that for Rendez-Vous Houston. But even with the low clouds, the instrument was very effective. You’d think that in this town, everyone would just shrug and say, “what a weird controller he’s got for that synth.” But all of us were suitably impressed, and thought the event a fitting memorial for the seven who were lost.

20 Kryten42 { 01.30.10 at 9:00 pm }

Shame on you Steve! I can hear my Grandfather now “You are NEVER too old!” (and he certainly proved that!) 😉 You don’t have to do it all yourself you know. 😉

My longest known friend first wife was a wonderful musician. She sadly passed away in 1981. She was a member of the Ormond Singers and played harpsichord, organ, piano, violin, guitar (her favorite was an old Spanish guitar in a beautiful lacquered case that had sadly seen better days and my friend had it sent to Spain to be restored). She wanted a particular harpsichord in the late 70’s, and after much searching my friend found one, but it was a mess. He asked if I would help restore it, and it was a tough job! Before she passed away, I convinced them to make a record at the studio I’d worked at, and the ABC (here) backed and funded the project as she had won some prestigious awards, and so at least her wonderful voice and talented playing have been recorded for the ages. 🙂 That’s one of my most valued and proudest memories. I like to think that I’ve managed to do a few worthwhile things in my life, makes the rest of it bearable. 🙂

Twice now I’ve had the importunity to see JMJ live, and twice because of reasons outside of my control, the opportunity was denied me. *sigh* My mother always told me that regrets were wasted emotions. We can’t change what’s happened. Still… I have a couple. 😉

21 Kryten42 { 01.30.10 at 9:02 pm }

Err… ‘importunity’ -> ‘opportunity’. 😆

22 Steve Bates { 01.30.10 at 9:27 pm }

Kryten, I’d agree with you about the matter of age, except for one thing: my chronic conditions leave me with peripheral neuropathy, in both hands and both feet. I can still type. I can sort of still play keyboard instruments (forget the pedal on the piano, though). But I once held an adjunct faculty position teaching recorder (the musical instrument, not the electronic device) at U. of St. Thomas – Houston for over a decade, and performed on recorder (and a bunch of other truly odd wind instruments) across two continents for two decades in my youth. That’s all gone now, and I miss it… I miss the playing and performing a lot more than I miss some abstract, imagined lamented lost youth, most of which I actually do NOT lament the loss of. 🙂

23 Kryten42 { 01.30.10 at 10:37 pm }

I understand. I’ve lived with physical issues myself (and still do). One of my dearest friends is a young fellow I met in 1997. He was 18 and had cerebral palsy and a couple other chronic conditions since birth. He was told (essentially) since birth he wouldn’t live to be 19 and would never do well in school. He’s still alive, though he recently had to get a motorized wheelchair, but he still walks with the aid of a cane when he can. He met a Bowen Therapist when he was a child through his parents that never gave up. He still sees that therapist weekly even though he’s officially retired now. 🙂 He’s also the smartest guy I know, even though he doesn’t have a single degree. He was one of only seven official BSD auditors in the World, worked with Linus Torvalds on linux, and developed much of the security protocols and code in the Linux Kernel. We started a security company together. Visa paid him $600/hr for over a week to fly to Germany to fix a serious credit-card security flaw that he’d warned them about years earlier. He hated Visa, and most financial corp’s, so they had to keep raising the offer until he said *yes*. 😆 Everyone has a price. 😉 Coincidentally, I’d known his father in the 80’s working on competing engineering designs when I was at GD. I generally *won*! 😉 Small World. 🙂

Anyway… the old saying is “Those who can’t do, teach”. When I couldn’t do anything because of a broken foot, knee, shoulder & thumb, I managed others to do things I couldn’t do. I know how damned frustrating it is. After almost 3 years of rehab, i am now able to work on some specific thing for upto 3 hours (it varies) before I loose concentration or just get tired. Two years ago, 15 min’s was my limit. 🙂

The reason I *retired* from MI is that I became ill. I was eventually diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia (radiation poisoning). I was supposed to die… but I didn’t (probably much to the chagrin of many at that time)! I had a BMT that almost DID kill me, then I realised it was the drugs they were making me take that were killing me. I was about 6 mths from liver failure when I met a brilliant Naturopath and master of other disciplines that helped me. Cost me everything I had… But I’m still here.

I’m not comparing myself or my friend to you BTW. Everyone is unique and I don’t believe in doing comparisons, I don’t think they can ever be fair or accurate. This is just for perspectives sake.

If you could get someone to build it, I think you could play it, if you can move your arms… You don’t need working hands or even tactile senses. It’s just a thought maybe. 🙂 I could probably help with the design. anyway… just a thought. 🙂

You have my sincere best wishes Steve!

24 Bryan { 01.30.10 at 10:39 pm }

Youth is wasted on the young, as GBS said. With the experience of old age tied to physical abilities of your twenties, what could most people not achieve?

Alas we are required to tell those with the physical abilities how to do things that we once accomplished effortlessly.

There are things I would have done differently, but I don’t regret my choices, because they were as good as they got at that point in time.

25 Steve Bates { 01.30.10 at 11:31 pm }

Thanks, gentlemen; both of you clearly understand (and in part share) my situation. Kryten, thanks for your confidence; in some way I probably could play a laser harp… I’m a quick study on unfamiliar instruments… but even if you built me one, there would be one obstacle: I am determined never to step onto a stage if I am less than prepared to deliver a professional performance. I had the privilege of sitting with some of the very best for quite a long time; it’s difficult to forgo that level of quality… especially if one’s own playing is the shortcoming. I had a good long ride: I have few regrets and nothing on my essential musical to-do list left undone. How many people can say that? (Of course, on that basis, I suppose I could have retired the day after I performed the cadence between the 2nd and last movement of Bach’s Brandenburg 4, one of the glorious moments in the whole recorder literature…)
.-= last blog ..Very Early Friday Guardian And Observer Blogging =-.

26 Kryten42 { 01.31.10 at 12:13 am }

…but even if you built me one, there would be one obstacle: I am determined never to step onto a stage if I am less than prepared to deliver a professional performance.

Ahhh! The mark of a caring Professional! 😀 You have my respect! I feel the same way about *stuff*! 😉 🙂

So… who said you had to do it for anyone other than yourself, or the cat’s? (Though… they probably wouldn’t appreciate it that much. Cat’s are so fickle!) 😆

In any case… If I can help with anything, in all seriousness, I’d be happy to do whatever I am able. Even if it’s convincing others to do the *heavy lifting*! 😆 (I can be persuasive I’m told) 😉

I’ve been told many times that I am “complicated”. But I am not really. I have done complicated things, but the reasons I do things are not so complex I think. Lady Min has come (I think) to understand that after several years (and she’s still sane… well, reasonably sane, given the World we are in!) I think you all are beginning to figure me out at the least by now. 😉 😆

It is nice to know that one isn’t alone. 🙂 One of the reasons I really love this place Bryan has allowed us to share. Kudos and many thanks Bryan! 😀

You know Steve… I truly would have loved to be entertained by a performance years ago at your most masterful. And that’s my loss. 🙂

Maybe we’ll all get to meet one day *shrug* I *never* say NEVER! (Yeah… I’m a pessimist that’s an eternal optimist! See… not complicated at all!) LMAO

27 Kryten42 { 01.31.10 at 7:48 am }

There are things I would have done differently, but I don’t regret my choices, because they were as good as they got at that point in time.

Very true Bryan. As I have mentioned before, my Mother was always on my case about that when i was younger. 🙂 She would say: “There’s no pint regretting things you did or things that happened. You can’t change them. You should regret the things you never tried.” The words might vary, but the message was always the same. She knew me well.

When she was about to pass 12 years ago, I promised here two things. I would never be a bastard (the World has an abundant supply of them already), and I would always try to do the best I could at any given time. I just finished a grueling teacher/assessor’s diploma. I wanted to quit so badly by Nov… I was exhausted and fed up… and scared. I was beginning to feel the way I did just before the breakdown. It’s been a very long time since I felt fear, especially for myself. It made me angry. I pushed myself and did whatever I had to to get through it. It was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life, and I have done many *hard* things! even 5 years ago, I could have done that course half asleep. I could easily weep over *what I’ve lost*, the fact that what would once be easy is now very difficult. But I don’t. 🙂 Because I did it, and because even 1 year ago, I know I couldn’t have. I remembered something I’d forgotten somewhere, some time… every single thing we do is relative! 🙂 The important questions is… what do we decide it’s relative to? I judge myself against myself. I don’t judge anyone by my standards, and I don’t hold myself up to others standards. I know that’s right and wrong, I know what is good and bad. and I believe everyone of us does, some just prefer not to know, and some don’t know that they know. The World is in the mess it’s in because too many people want to judge others by their own standards. and what right do they have to decide that *their* standard is the only one, or the best one or the right one? Non at all. But too many others allow them to have the right, because it’s simpler to have someone else tell them what to do than it is to think for themselves. And when it goes wrong, they can feel good that *it wasn’t their fault*. Except, that’s a lie. They gave the right to make their decisions to another, so it is their fault. They can’t escape that, no matter how much they want to. 🙂

I’m not aiming that at anyone for any reason. I just felt like giving another piece of my story. If anyone get’s something from it, well and good. But it’s just my story. 🙂

28 Badtux { 01.31.10 at 2:10 pm }

Teachers must be a lot braver than I’d ever given them credit for.

You have no idea. Teaching in the USA today should come with combat pay, except they’re unarmed, untrained in physical combat, and alone in a room with sometimes up to forty teenage thugs in some of the inner-city schools. Having a rocket stuck under your ass and shot into space is almost safe by comparison.

– Badtux the Former Teacher Penguin
.-= last blog ..13 =-.

29 Bryan { 01.31.10 at 5:00 pm }

Public speaking is scary enough for a lot of people, but trying to teach a group that has no interest or commitment for what you are attempting to tell them is the pits.

I switched to the evening session and adult students for that reason, because the recent high school grads were just filling a slot in their schedule, while the adults really wanted to learn what I was teaching. It was night and day. I actually miss teaching because of that switch.

There was a complaint filed because my classes were getting better grades than the day school group. That ended when they got to see my midterm. I was teaching more than the required course work, and I didn’t use multiple choice tests. I just had interested students, many of whom would be reimbursed by their employers if they got a B or above, and they knew why they were taking the course.

In my full-time job I got to arrest some of those “bright-eyed high school students” for just about everything except drugs [who the hell cared about drugs if it wasn’t a dealer and a half key involved]. Most of the arrests were larcenies, but there were a significant number of assaults and weapons violations. I was working security at a high school basketball game and we took knives away from the cheerleaders for Dog’s sake, butcher knives in their purses! Lovely children…

No all teachers are untrained. I have taught defensive and control tactics to elementary school teachers. Their school was for “exceptional children”, and “acting out” got more than a little physical at times. The teachers tended to view child protection services in a much different light than the general population – as a group to protect them from the children, and they did it without tasers. That was a volunteer thing, as I had a connection through friends.

30 Steve Bates { 01.31.10 at 5:34 pm }

My late father once disarmed a gun-toting middle school student intent on killing the principal of the school. Dad credited his Navy training with the save. This was perhaps 40 years ago, when it was presumably easier to enter a public school carrying a gun in your coat pocket, but still, Badtux is right: teaching school involves risk to life and limb. I tried teaching for a while, but it wasn’t long before I realized I didn’t have Dad’s intestinal fortitude.

31 Steve Bates { 01.31.10 at 5:46 pm }

Thank you, Bryan, for being willing to provide some training to school personnel. If nothing else discourages student violence, just the fact that teachers are trained should influence a few students.

Dad “disarmed” far more students observed carrying knives, razors etc., by the terrifying technique (to me at least) of facing them down and demanding, in a quiet voice, that they give him the weapon. He said that every time he held his hand out, he knew he would get the weapon, one way or another. Fortunately, he never lost a finger that way. (In a child-labor accident when he was 13, he DID lose a finger, but that was another matter.)

32 Kryten42 { 01.31.10 at 8:18 pm }

Hmmm. Of course you are all correct. And I do know how tough it can be to be a school level teacher, I only have to think back to my years in school… One teacher was killed when I was in College. It was *officially* an accident… But I’d heard different. It was run by the Christian Brothers, and this one in particular took a sadistic pleasure in using the strap on students. He was responsible for a well liked student being crippled for life. Two weeks later, he had an accident. *shrug* The problem was that this *Good Christian School* (it was an expensive Private College BTW), was home to members of one of the biggest and most ruthless gangs in Melbourne, and I was a member (kids had little choice. If they wanted to recruit you, you joined or faced regularly having the crap beaten out of you. An effective recruiting method.) To be honest, to this day, I think the bastard had it coming to him. The kid that was crippled was really a *good* kid! Even the gang left him alone… it’s strange to think about all that now and try to understand the dynamics after so long. I mean… this was a gang that burned down the fire station so they couldn’t go and put out the fire they started at the police station to destroy records and evidence when a few gang members were arrested the day before (this was before computers of course). And yet… they protected this kid who was not a gang member and they never asked him to join. This was a relatively new, small outer suburb of Melb at the time. So the police & fire stations were small wood buildings. The fire station only had two appliances in a garage next to the main building.

Anyway… yeah, schools can be pretty tough! The only reason I decided to get this diploma is because here in Aus now you HAVE to have a teaching credential to train or teach anything. Even though I’ve been in IT effectively 30 years now and want to just teach some basics, I have to get a teaching credential. We’ve gone mad on certifications here. You even need a Cirt IV to be a cleaner! I kid you not. So, a job that was for people who had very low income and couldn’t afford to get a diploma etc, now have to get one and pay anywhere from $2.4k – over $4k to earn a low income! And now, everything is *competency* based. You don’t get a score when you complete any Cirt or Diploma now. you get ‘C’ (competent) or ‘NC’ (not yet competent). As a potential employer, my first question would be “WTF does that mean??” Seriously. It’s REALLY very complicated and studying this, seriously almost did my head in!

Your Dad was right Steve. I’ve had to disarm a *few* people in my life and having a *command voice* and being fearless usually win’s the day. Body language is very important, both reading and projecting. Being very good at it enables one to knew when someone has a *set*… You know they have decided to attack. You have to be ready to react before they do attack. Most of the time, (depending on circumstances) they don’t want to attack, but don’t see a way to avoid it. You have to give them a way out, a reason not to attack. Being all antagonistic and *in their face* isn’t going to do it. 🙂

LOL Bryan! Yeah… My sister put a heavy brick in the bottom of her shoulder bag (and she was strong enough to swing it hard enough to break something) after a couple kids picked on her once. they never picked on her again after they got out of hospital. She was definitely my sister! 😆 Mom wasn’t impressed of course, Dad couldn’t care less as usual, but Granddad was impressed, so was I actually. 🙂 My sister once beat up a girl I had finally got a date with after a couple months trying, because she discovered this girl was seeing other guys! Hell… every guy in the school knew that! I didn’t want to marry her! Man… was I pissed at my sister for ages after that! 😆

Heh… school was fun, sometimes. 😉

Personally, I wouldn’t be a school teacher without combat fatigues (they are virtually knife proof now. Lot better than what we had in Cambodia), kevlar and a glock! 😈

33 Bryan { 01.31.10 at 8:23 pm }

The purpose was to avoid anyone getting hurt. It’s amazing how useful a blanket and few web belts [Velcro straps weren’t widely available at the time] can be when you’re dealing with the K-6 crowd. Actually, just getting people to accept that you have to start small and leave yourself room to escalate, rather then beginning a situation by screaming or claiming authority. The other big thing is that you don’t threaten, you promise, and you keep that promise – even children understand the difference.

34 Badtux { 02.01.10 at 5:04 am }

A former middle school principal, retired, that I was in a consulting business with told me that he knew it was time to retire when him calmly sticking his hand out to request the gun from the student while calmly letting the student know that using that weapon would be a really bad idea for oh so many reasons became routine to him rather than something that had him sitting in the office for an hour afterwards waiting for the adrenaline shakes to die down. He was starting to become an adrenaline junkie, and he wasn’t that interested in dying but he knew that if it kept on that way, sooner or later some kid would actually use the gun rather than hand it over.

Bryan, I took a similar course in how to safely restrain elementary-age kids in a special-education environment who were out of control, though the things you mention – web belts and velcro straps – would have gotten us fired. But we had aides and other personnel available to assist at the Behavior Intervention Center. Frankly, I preferred dealing with the crazy kids to dealing with the thugs, with the crazy kids at least everybody knew they were crazy and were expected to do crazy things and we had the institutional support to deal with that, usually, and because of the small classes and institutional support could set up an appropriate behavior management system that actually worked, based on the level system used in psych hospitals and prisons. Although I sort of ignored that one and went with a simpler merit-demerit system that was more along a military style that gave more immediate feedback. Not to mention that the smaller class size also let us interact with the kids as kids rather than a face in a crowd. Having the institutional support and flexibility to actually handle situations in a humane fashion was a great situation to be in, even if the kids were crazy.

Grandmother of one of my BIC students (who had torn up two different classrooms before coming to BIC) asked me how her child was doing in my class. “Doing fine, no behavior problems at all” I said. “Really? Any time I ask her to do something, she just argues, argues, argues with me!” I shrugged. “I don’t argue with children.” And I didn’t, I just calmly explained what they should be doing, why they should be doing it, and what the consequences were. And if they chose to do something they weren’t supposed to be doing, enforced the consequences. The kids got the message, my blood pressure stayed down, and the kids liked having a structured environment where they knew where they stood.

But teaching math in regular schools… oh my. There was one 8th grade class I remember in particular. I swear that 2/3rds of the kids in that class had probation officers, most of the kids were 15 or 16 years old and really didn’t care about school anymore, they were there because their juvie sentence required them to be there, that’s all. I’m surprised I survived that school year without being physically assaulted, though I had someone get in my face. (Not a good idea with me, I get very focused at that point rather than intimidated, and besides when someone is actually in your face they’re not assaulting you, they’re just trying some stupid dominance game that I refuse to play… probably why it only happened *once*). But I was pretty much burned out by that time and the kids knew that there was no telling what would happen if they pushed my levers too hard because I just didn’t give a shit anymore, the principal couldn’t threaten to fire me because I had no intention of ever stepping into a classroom again at the end of the school year and plenty of skills to do other things. So they didn’t push it *too* hard. Though they didn’t spend a lot of time learning anything either, but what can you expect when 2/3rds of the kids have probation officers and the rest probably should? :shrug: