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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Speaking of Balloons...

“Oops! I dropped my water balloon.”

It was the innocence of the line that caught my attention as I stepped out my office door a moment ago. I was expecting to see wet carpet, but instead the unbroken balloon had been picked up and cradled safely in a young girl's hands. (She is a middle school student who shall remain nameless here.) Our eyes met. She managed a smile, but was obviously surprised to see me.

“Hmmmm… Let’s start with the easy question," I said, "Why do you have a water balloon at school?”
(I was about to take that little test common to all teachers, principals, and parents alike. It's called the “Don’t Laugh Now” test.)
“What this?" She asked. "It’s actually not a water balloon—It's an air balloon—I mean... it was an air balloon, but it was too hard to blow up—you know how some balloons are like really hard to blow up?—this one was like that… so I had to blow it up with water, but it’s not a water balloon like the kind you're thinking—We’re decorating [someone’s] locker with balloons for his birthday—don’t worry the other balloons have air in 'em—I was just coming to get some extra tape to hold this one on the locker because it’s heavy... As soon as he sees it, we’ll take this one down and I’ll break it in the sink."

She finally stopped for air and widened her eyes as if this graying principal (after 30 years of working with students) would say with enlightened relief: “Ohhhhhhh...It’s not a water balloon. It’s an air balloon with water in it—a decoration on a friend’s locker. Sounds like a fool-proof plan to me. Let's get you some more tape.”

Like I said, I could barely hold back a laugh... much less hide my smile as I said, “It’s cool that you're decorating a friend’s locker, and I appreciate your clarifying that this balloon filled with water is not a water balloon. [It was a cute little thing about the size of an oblong tennis ball.] But let’s skip the locker part and go straight to that break-it-in-the-sink part. How’s that sound?”

She flashed a "Life's good" smile and headed for the girl’s restroom.

It was five minutes to eight. The first-period bell would soon begin another day—but not just any day—this is the first day of May.

Happy May Day!
[See post below for title context.]


Blogger Cris said...


I would have definitely had a hard time trying not to laugh. Kudos to you for holding your composure. :P

1/5/08 11:14 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

When reading this I thought to a few years back, back in the 70's when I was in middle school (called junior high then). You can be thankful that you were not the administrator back then at the school that was tormented by me. Oh those were the days....

1/5/08 11:16 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

It's been a while. I hope is going well for you. Yes. I had to laugh as I stepped back into my office, and then just to kick off May Day I shared it on the spot (not typical of me to write at the office).

Welcome to POI. So you were a school tormentor, eh? I'm glad your son is not--he's a great kid, always helpful.
When things slow down a bit at school (plays and concerts and special events nearly every day it seems), I hope to get caught up on my blog reading, and I'll try to stop by. Well, off to tonight's play!

1/5/08 5:47 PM  
Blogger Dr.John said...

You sound like a great principal.

1/5/08 6:42 PM  
Blogger the walking man said...

She is fortunate this wasn't 30 years ago and that you weren't a nun! ha ha ha ha, I had to torture them covertly because I knew my rear was grass and they were lawn mowers.

So what is it Tom? Experience or a long ago class at teachers school; mellow 325?

nice little read, thanks



2/5/08 2:20 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Dr. John,
"Great" is a magnanomous word but I thank you for your kindness. I'm confident that most of you would have seen the humor in the sincere but moot explanation.

Grass and Lawnmowers. Yes, I remember those days (though I did not go to Catholic school). I managed to get a few "swats" in my days at both Huron Park (about three miles from you) and Burton Jr. High (now torn down to build I-696). I even taught a few years when "swats" were still acceptable practice in our schools.
As to your other question. You hit the nail on the head. It was time and nothing I was taught directly in a class that most sets the tone for how I handle "problems." Have good policy in place, but let the punishment fit the crime! =)

2/5/08 5:42 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

What a great response from the wise gray haired administrator... and what a great way to start your day (with a smile on your face)!

You should record all of these funny antics... it would make a great book!

Have a great weekend!

2/5/08 10:00 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

It was a great May Day. Oh, that all matters were as simple as that one (and that there were no examples of me handling matters with less aplomb over the same 30 years--isn't that a funny word "aplomb"?).

As for the book... actually a friend and I have talked about compiling a collection of funny/ inspirational teacher anecdotes and essays. He has some very good ones. Maybe someday.... =)

2/5/08 5:40 PM  
Blogger the walking man said...

Err ahhh ummm Tom, there is no "someday" there is only today. even if you start dropping what you think you might use into a file on your hard drive, it is working towards that goal.

Personally I think the stories about your work life and what goes on it are funny, sad, poignant and would absolute make a good collective read. But it won't happen "someday."



and don't you go correcting my grammer anspeling now either. ha ha ha

3/5/08 1:30 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Good, good, good advice. Thanks, I needed that. And thanks to you,too, Nancy.

We may be seeing more of work-place stories here in the months to come. (Not necessary as "current" as this one was.)

3/5/08 9:06 AM  
Blogger Donnetta Lee said...

VERY funny, Tom. Since I work in a school, I can relate to this! Of course, as a student back in the day, I would never myself have been caught red handed. Oh, I mean, I never would have done anything like that at all. Happy May!

3/5/08 11:51 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Donnetta Lee,
I don't know how I missed that you work in schools, but there it is in your profile: "Speech-Language Pathologist." I've always thought you were mostly a writer--take that as a compliment.

3/5/08 4:56 PM  
Blogger Donnetta Lee said...

Hi, Tom: I just assumed you knew I worked in schools. I've had a private practice and worked in the health department setting, but always ended up back at the school. I also worked for 8 years at the department of education as a compliance/complaint coordinator for special education in the schools. One more year until retirement and then I plan to do more writing! Wish I could write like you do!

3/5/08 9:24 PM  
Blogger jewell said...

Very funny! One of my children has observed you a couple times dealing with a student who was not adhereing to the rules stated in the student handbook. The kind way you handled it made a great impact on my child!

4/5/08 12:59 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Donnetta Lee,
Thank you. Six hours of my undergrad studies were in Speech Therapy. That is a very high calling. We love the speech pathologist who comes to our building.

It's sort of like parenting. God helps us think down the road to truer objectives so we can avoid pyrrhic victories.

In June, I will be at a class reunion for the Class of '88 (in Iowa). If we could always remember to treat people in the present like we'll wish we had in 20 years...it would make us wise beyond our years.

(It's only May. Pray for wisdom in the remaining days. =)

4/5/08 2:47 PM  
Blogger heiresschild said...

as Solomon said, "there's nothing new under the sun." LOL!

4/5/08 9:41 PM  
Blogger jewell said...

"If we could always remember to treat people in the present like we'll wish we had in 20 years...it would make us wise beyond our years."

That is so good. That's a good one to post on the bathroom mirror.

5/5/08 11:11 AM  
Blogger Cris said...

Yea, things have been a little busy around here lately. I'm getting ready to send out letters to surrounding churches asking if they would be interested in hosting a Compassion Sunday to try and get children sponsored. I haven't even had much time for blogging myself. Hopefully things will slow down a bit once I get them mailed out.

Happy Monday! :)

5/5/08 4:11 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I wish I'd thought of it 20 years ago. =) Though for the most part, I think I've tried to live by it--and for instance look forward to visiting with my students in the Class of '88.

Sounds like a busy weed but a worthy undertaking.

5/5/08 9:11 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I don't know how I missed you up there. Oh, to have Soloman's wisdom--not so much for water balloon moments but for the bigger matters that arise.

But how true...
nothing new under the sun when it comes to the snags and snares of life when working with young people, but even on its lowest day it is a high calling!

6/5/08 11:30 PM  
Blogger Tammy said...

Great story...loved how you handled it! :)

7/5/08 12:48 AM  
Blogger the walking man said...

Hey Tom, don't know if you knew it or not, but I was cruising the Circuit City web site under the movie section and saw that The Red Balloon has been issued on CD a month or so ago. Cost was minimal $7 or $8 bucks.



7/5/08 4:24 AM  

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