educator, writer, speaker, devoted family man, amateur philosopher, chess enthusiast, basketball junkie, connoisseur of fine hip hop, and purveyor of wit and wisdom
Today’s Five for a Friday…
Okay…Yesterday I was challenged by David (this David here) and Karen (this Karen here) to write about some of my embarrassing moments for the Five for a Friday. And since I rarely back down from a challenge (unless it involves eating something strange or mutilating my body or hours of listening to audio crack), I decided to accept their challenge.
So here goes…
Five Embarrassing Moments
#1: My first year being bussed to a new school.
During my kindergarten, first grade, and second grade years, I went to school at Loren Miller Elementary in south central L.A. I excelled pretty quickly, and during my 2nd grade year, my teacher would send me to the 4th grade class for reading and math. My mother didn’t like that, and so she began searching for other schools and programs. After finishing my 2nd grade year, she signed me up for Lomita Fundamental Magnet School (I think now it’s known as Lomita Math/Science Magnet School). The school bus would pick up a group of us from Vermont Avenue and ship us off to the lily white suburb of Lomita (near the city of Torrence). I remember everything being so clean…the city was clean, the school was clean, the kids were all clean…everything was just so damn clean. One day, during recess, our class was playing on the basketball court, and then the bell rang. Everybody immediately fell into line…except me. To this day, I’m not sure why, but something just came over me and I simply sat on the ground and refused to move. Classmates were telling me to hurry and line up, but I folded my arms and just sat there. Then Jennifer van Wie stepped out of line and walked toward me. She was cute…REAL cute (the two of us would eventually be pretty good friends. We remained in the same class from 3rd grade through 6th grade, and we always battled to be the smartest kid in the class.) Anyway, Jennifer was cute…so damn clean and cute…and she walked up to me and reached out her hand and said “C’mon Robert let’s get in line.” That’s when I bit her. REAL hard. That damn cute hand was just hanging there in front of my face and…at the time…biting her just felt like the right thing to do. Of course she screamed (girls usually do that when they’ve been bitten). Some teacher (Mrs. O’Hara, I think) came by and walked us into the classroom. Someone called the principal, and someone else called my mother…it was just all bad. I don’t remember all of the conversations that took place (just phrases like “What were you thinking?” and “Did he break the skin?” and…probably a lot of just “What were you thinking?”) I didn’t say much, but most people in the third grade just sort of avoided me after that (except for Jennifer for some reason).
#2: Being picked on by my 5th grade teacher, Mr. Camponella.
When I was in 5th grade, my teacher, Mr. Camponella, was teaching and mentioned something about a big whale. I decided to pipe in with the brilliant and well-timed elucidation “Yeah, just like Nick.” Mr. Camponella didn’t appreciate that I had the nerve to interrupt the lesson by making fun of someone, so he decided to turn it into a teachable moment (teachers are good for these moments). He said, “Robert, that was not right. How would you like it if somebody called you Skinny Bones Jones?” The whole class erupted into this laughter that I could still hear to this day. I think it was because I had always been this VERY scrawny kid (all the way through college). Mr. Camponella stung me with that one, but in all fairness, I did learn my lesson.
#3: Still in Mr. Camponella’s 5th grade class…
Like almost all elementary teachers, Mr. Camponella gave weekly spelling tests. I was (and still am) a fantastic speller, and I would ace each one of his spelling tests. Toward the end of the school year, Mr. Camponella told us that our last spelling test would have three bonus words. The words were:
He was a pretty smart teacher. He taught us that spelling difficult words was simply a matter of memorizing them in easily digestible units…like “mono” and “ultra” and “micro”. Anyway, days after that last spelling test, Mr. Camponella returned the tests and told us that three students got everything correct, including the three bonus words. I was one of the three students (along with Jennifer van Wie), and for our great work, each of us was given a sealed envelope. I couldn’t wait, so I tore open the envelope. Inside was a brand new crisp one dollar bill. I was so happy, I screamed “Oh yeah, baby!!!”…And then I immediately fell backwards off my chair. The whole class laughed at me…and some nights, when the air is still and the neighborhood is real quiet, I can still hear those kids in Mr. Camponella’s class laughing at me.
#4: On My Wedding Day…
This wasn’t incredibly embarrassing…only slightly so. After the actual ceremony was over, all the guests went inside the reception room and listened to music while Tara and I remained outside with the photographer. After all the pictures were taken outside, we walked back to the reception. As we entered the room, Chazz (a good friend of ours and one of the musicians) introduced us to the crowd: “Ladies and Gentlemen, I now present to you Mr. & Mrs Hogan!” Hogan is Tara’s maiden name.
#5: My first day as an adjunct college professor.
Back in the 2000-2001 school year, I began working as the coordinator of the tutoring center at Loyola Marymount University. During that year (maybe the spring semester), the math department had a math class that needed a part-time instructor, and I got the chance to teach the course. I can’t remember the exact name of the course, but it was a “Math for Non-Math Majors” type of course. It was a course that taught some of the “real-world” math topics such as the math behind annuities, amortizations, probability, voting, etc, etc, etc. About fifteen minutes into the first day of class, things were going well. Then someone asked me a really simple question, but for some reason, my mind just drew a blank. I couldn’t think of the word I wanted to say…that’s when my speech anxiety kicked in…and then I fainted. Right there in the front of the classroom. I think I freaked out some of the students because one of them ran to find another instructor to help me out. He told everyone to go home and we’ll just start over when we meet again during our next class session. From then on, things went really well…I think I just had to get over that first day.