Friday, March 30, 2018

i'll give you some idea of the frustrations of life as a substitute teacher in a medium-sized, small-town, public high school. i go in there on thursday, last day before break, since their spring break is the week after easter, and it includes good friday, which somehow they are able to take off because it's a snow day unused. snow day unused, because it's in the valley, the desert, and they don't have many snow days. but in any case, it's been a long spring, a long march with no breaks, and every other school has had a midway spring break, but they've gone a little too long.

so on this day they've made an assembly at the end of the day which is a talent show. students themselves will perform and this promises to be interesting. they try to get a dollar off of everyone to support the choir, to go see it, but they basically let people in even if they don't have a dollar. classes are shortened earlier in the day. there is also, around lunchtime, a dedication of a new entrance to the school, where everyone wearing school colors is to be let out fifth period, if they want to, and go be part of this ribbon-cutting.

so the teacher says, classes are short, i don't think most of them will even show up, especially fifth and seventh, there's a track meet (true) and a bunch of other things going on, so there's really no plan. take roll and don't worry about it.

now if you're a sub, roll is a big deal. you don't know them, don't pronounce their names right sometimes, but you keep track on a sheet from the office and you try to get that sheet back to the office in a timely way; the office keeps copious track of who's there and who's not. roll also gives me some control; if i learn their names and use them, it's more effective discipline. when there's nothing to do, they start getting "squirrely," as the other teachers call it. in this case, one kid was giving another lots of "nougies" and it was bordering on bullying. i was tired of it and a little angry.

but the other things they do and were doing, not much better. taking a hole puncher and emptying it out on the floor, so little tiny holes go flying around. taking tape, one piece at a time, and fixing some homework that one of them tore up. this kind of thing. trying to see how annoying one can be.

most classes really appreciate the break, and use it to do their homework. they are high schoolers now, behind on everything, and if they have a chance to go to another class and take a test that they missed, or do some makeup homework, they'll do that, and i encourage it. i let people out if they want out. i try to make class amenable to studying if i can. no nougies of unwilling participants, that kind of stuff.

but, because some are really intent on working, that's why i don't bring up what i want to discuss with them, which is, largest demonstration in the nation, by high school students, filling up d.c., what do you think of that? i wanted to solicit their opinions. but i didn't. they were too burnt out, too squirrely, they weren't going to tell me anything. i gave up, backed off, didn't bother them much.

the talent show was won by a young mexican american who testified that she'd been trained out of doing talent shows in middle school but was going to do this anyway. her song was traditional mexican and was very well done; she was my choice, out of the sixteen, for purely musical reasons. her testimony, and her bright yellow dress, might have helped her victory. up in the stands, students were still squirrely. i stayed near them and glared at them occasionally but mostly i let them be squirrely. there wasn't going to be much teaching going on.

the high school was buoyant, elated, when it was over. people cleared out in minutes. i went back to my classroom to collect my stuff, concentrating on my phone, my hat, my water jug, the things i can't afford to forget over the long break. but, i forget the attendance forms. ah well. sometimes a sub is just a lousy teacher. here i'd filled them out carefully, marked every absence, even made a big deal out of it.

there was one girl in particular. in second hour, which is their free, study-hall hour generally, she had arranged to meet her friends at the library. ordinarily i would let her go during this hour. on this day though a very clear announcement came over that there was to be no movement this hour. no passes. everyone supposed to be where they're supposed to be. so i told her, no, i can say i never saw you, but i can't say i saw you and gave you permission to go. she went anyway. i marked her absent. it was a matter of principle.

but it's still on the guy's desk. he may see it, upon his return, and hand it in, but if not, it'll sit there for a while. it's break, and things have shut down hard.

our kiddos are off good friday too. my opinion, they ought to know what it is, why they're off, what the holiday is about, but i'm not going to lay a big thing on them, he died for your sins and all that. they have plenty of sins, but they don't need an extra burden, until they're ready for it. i'll put some candy inside some eggs and maybe a fortune inside each one, and i'm trying to decide what kind of fortune. probably non-serious ones, like u r a screwball, or, don't stick anything in your ear except your elbow. i went down into the garden and cleaned out some dog poop, but i still have some glass, old cans, etc., before i call it ready to hide eggs. it has warmed up though. even up here on the mountain, one can finally go outside, one can stand out there, and the dogs kind of run around ditzy for a while, and then just sniff their noses at all the cool stuff in the breeze. the little flowers come shooting out of the hillside.

it's spring, and almost everyone is grateful to take a deep breath.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

saturday morning, and my week has just turned into a weekend, since i have finished my chinese class. on saturday mornings, now, i wake up at five a m, eat and shower, and teach about five chinese children writing, online, on zoom, from six to seven. this leaves me, at seven, wide awake, well ahead of the family, but bleary-eyed and sleepless, as the sun rises over the mountains behinds us and begins to shine pink on the white sands off in the west. another cold, dry and dusty spring day here in the mountains, but we know spring is coming, and will soon bloom left and right all around us. late march, and it hasn't started yet. but it's just around the corner, as they say.

in this case i use my free time to delve into the subjects of my research, the mather family, john leverett, robert sedgwick, and a band of unruly puritans who take over boston in the 1600's and set the stage for a boston witch trial, and then nineteen horrible salem witch trials. all the witch trials are horrible, actually. i have no idea how they are directly tied in to my family, but they are. boston was a very small town. the mathers were very important there. my family, young john in particular, who was not my direct ancestor, but who nevertheless carried my name, was right there in boston at the time. in fact, the link between our direct ancestors, and these puritans, including john the governor, is lost right around the time of the witch trials. whoever it was, who didn't document their baby carefully, for whatever reason, went underground in boston, between 1680 and 1695, when these trials took place. it could be that one didn't want to be associated with an out-of-wedlock birth, or that, if it happened, one had to keep it pretty well out of sight. this is my challenge, and, as a result, i've been delving into studies of that era.

i've been somewhat obsessive about this writing, and i haven't even told too many people about it. in the days, i'm a substitute teacher; i hang around with twenty or thirty students, as they either do what the regular teacher has set out for them, or they don't, and i try to make sure that they don't hurt each other, or ruin the furniture, or whatever. sometimes i don't succeed. the principal of the high school comes around to make sure they aren't using their phones; that's a default activity for the vast majority of teenagers. sometimes i feel like telling them, hey, i've found out that my ancestors, or what i'd like to believe are my ancestors, are responsible for signing the document that established the first public school in america, the boston latin school, see below post. and, so the guy i'm named after signs this document, because he's the note-taker for the boston puritan church community, and they hire this guy as a tutor, and he makes his son, whose name i have for a middle name, as the first student. now that son is eighteen at the time, and not inclined to go along with his father's wishes, and so is probably not a great student, and certainly does not go into the study of latin, or the classical texts, or scriptures, but rather buys and sells boats sailing across the atlantic, trading furs and sugar, and whatever they can pick up. he goes to england to jockey for power and influence and get support for occupying forts in what is today nova scotia. he becomes governor of the colony, but his son loses the trail, because his son has children around the time of the witch trials, or maybe it's his sister, but somebody doesn't want too much scrutiny on the nature of these births.

so i've been writing the tales of the family, my family and that of the cottons and mathers and the ministers of that time, and i've neglected my haiku, neglected my stories, neglected my laundry, and the other family business that i should be attending to. i should be practicing music, for example, because the saturday flea markets will start soon and i want to be there, and i want to keep my music alive. i should be going through some of my father's stuff, and emptying out the piled up materials that i'm not doing anything about. i should be using my father's digital camera to make pictures for the next calendars, as i will not be doing jim leverett photography, probably, for a few years, but instead may do a quaker calendar or just a pop art calendar. i should be arranging the back porch so that i can get back there, when i finally haul the last of my dad's stuff out here from my sister's house in las cruces.

but alas, i'm bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived, and have a class, along with my three jobs, to attend to. the class is to get and keep my certification, which i suppose i need if i still want to be a public school teacher. my wife has begun to look at that job as if i am a policeman, expected to be armed and prepared for any craven youth who charges in angry about his grade, with easy access to semi-automatic weapons and every other thing. in other words, she'd rather keep me, to take care of our children and live to see another year. my original plan to become a public school teacher and survive the great depression, caused by trade wars and a system that has to get rid of its corrupt president, may change, as time has simply caught up to me; i'm turning sixty-four, eligible for social security, and not necessarily willing to keep up the good fight to educate our nation's youth. i have eight books, unfinished and in this very computer. i have obsessive need to learn about such things as the case of goody glover, who was hanged in boston in 1688, four years before the salem witch trial, under the watchful eyes of increase and cotton mather, and whose crime seemed to be causing young children to go into fits of hysteria because apparently the power to determine who was a witch and who was not, was invested in them.

to some degree, i see some parallel, in my life as a sub. these kids have a lot of power; in some cases, they use it. if someone gets too nasty with them, they go into paroxysms of tantrums, trying to get out of whatever they dislike (in some cases, group work; in others, writing). if one tries to discipline them or set them straight, they go all the way up, complaining, and saying that we've been unnecessarily harsh. i'm not harsh, i'm simply a sub. having gone through many years of torture myeslf, i'm the last person who would want to make anyone suffer.

but on the other hand, when a young girl brings in a history fair project with the salem witch trials, and pictures and text, all about the nineteen poor souls killed starting in about 1692 in salem, i can hardly contain my desire to start up with them. my ancestors had a feud with cotton mather, i want to say, but they also disappeared into the shadows, about that time. i don't even know, if i'm related to the puritans that started this whole public school deal. i did say that to one girl; i simply told her the story. she looked at me as if she had no clue that the whole witch trial thing was even real. it's real all right, it's just 325 years ago, a little too long ago to remember. real people were there, were involved, and even died. whether we are the same souls, back for another round, or just another hopeless culture, crumbling and angry about it, ready to do the same stuff over again, and inflict our problems on our weakest, most powerless victims, remains to be seen. there are definitely parallels.

i am midway into the book, perhaps thirty pages. it will be halfway done in a while, then i have to go back and fill in the gaps. i am telling the story the best i can. i am putting my ancestors right up against the mathers, and comparing commoners and ministers, the tolerationists and the defenders of puritan homogeneity. in my own world, the leveretts are at least as important as the mathers, though much less is written about them, and, as i've said, some did seem to disappear in the shadows there for a while. three hundred years later, it's time to find them, if i can, and decide for myself what really happened.

the world, and in particular the deadly monotony of classes of kids who refuse to learn anything from a sub, awaits me at the other end, on monday, when the weekend is over. chou

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Monday, March 12, 2018

so to you puritan scholars out there, let me introduce myself. i was named after the first two leveretts in america, thomas and john, and started out studying them before i tried to figure out exactly how we are related. there is a gap in the genealogy, right in the late 1600's, which i will get to later, but just while i was trying to figure out who thomas and john were, i ran up against the late 1600's, and voila, there's this huge boston witch trial in there, with our friend cotton mather right in the middle of it.

now thomas and john had come over on the same boat as john cotton, and had settled in the same boston with the cottons, and the dudleys, and the bellinghams, and the hutchinsons, and a few other noteworthy families. all were from boston lincolnshire, and ended up in boston massachusetts. no sooner did they arrive than their community was torn up by the anne hutchinson controversy, but the leveretts, after our guy was governor, and quite a big and powerful guy, tended to go underground in the late 1600's as his son had absolutely nothing written about him at all, except that he was a "rather indifferent character." he, however, had a son who was to become president of harvard.

now in this mix comes the cottons. john cotton made his big mistake by turning anne hutchinson out of the colony, for being strong, or a woman, or powerful, or whatever. he sided with the forces of puritan orthodoxy. in the boston witch trial his grandson cotton mather allowed the local puritans to hang an old irish washerwoman, in 1688, fifty years later.. in salem four years after that, the salem witch trials began. john leverett, grandson of the governor and son of the indifferent character, and cotton mather were by now rivals, and this especially showed up at harvard, where john was entrenched, having worked there, and having liberalized the place, whereas increase, who had been president, really would rather have made it more of a divinity-type puritan place. john did not approve of the witch trials, but, being at harvard, had less say over what the local boston authorities chose to do. cotton wanted to replace him as president of harvard; they were a little upset at his reign. harvard was never to go back to its puritan ways.

i write this because i keep coming up with more and more. the dudleys also, old bostonians, were in the middle of it. it all makes such a good story that i want to simply make a book, rather than a genealogy. perhaps i'll make both.

here's the essence of the gap. this indifferent character had his first son john, another son thomas who became the barber of boston, then remarried and slipped off into obscurity in boston, after the father's death in 1679. leverett genealogists somehow figured he had a son out there who was somehow not noticed even after the death of the father and the fact that john and this thomas the barber guy were the only male heirs.

but, besides hudson, john the governor also had six daughters, and they all had interesting stories, and slipped off into the same oblivion that poor hudson was occupying. the city of boston was convulsing in the kind of fear that would make you hang a washerwoman for simply making kids act bonkers. one can imagine how one of these daughters were to feel if she, for example, had a son out of wedlock with someone. and, as it turns out, this is probably possible, and is an angle that i will pursue. because, it is well known, and often said, that we are related to the governor, though not the president of harvard (who had only daughters, but had a much more public life than any of john's daughters, or hudson the indifferent). all of these folks were knocking around in the boston of the late 1600's, when cotton mather was railing about the works of satan being shown in the hysteria of local people come unhinged.

not that that's ever happened to anyone i know.

and by the way, i use all small letters, to signify the informality of just talking, just writing for my own benefit here. i am not proclaiming the absolute truth here as sometimes i find myself wrong later on, and don't even go back to correct the blather. i read, i think, i get my ideas down here, it's like i'm talking to you. this whole blog is full of this stuff. but here i am, out there, pulling this stuff together, and it makes a good story, if nothing else. those too were interesting times. eventually i'll come to the one who walked out of maine, and headed for the wilds of quincy illinois where, lo and behold, they were kicking out the mormons. but this guy, by this time, was a farmer. no use for that city lifestyle, of getting involved in public discourse and local politics. within a couple of generations, they had given up the city altogether, and had even given up going to town to mix in on public questions like what to do with the mormons' bell. that would be the same one that ended up out in iowa, on mormon trek road, and i'll just say now, all that story will come out later, i hope. chou.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

the trail of my family leads up to a guy named william who appeared in 1715, marrying a woman named mary, but we cannot connect him to the illustrious leveretts that included john the governor of massachusetts, and john the president of harvard. there is a gap there, in the late 1660's, when this guy would have been born, and when people somehow slipped into the shadows of the town of boston.

but alas, it turns out that the town of boston had quite some shadows. we all know about the salem witch trials, a ways away from boston, but my reading assured me that salem was an entirely different world than boston, might as well be hundreds of miles away. they both shared the harsh puritan doctrine of increase mather and cotton mather, two people who didn't mind seeing witches hanged, but they shared little else, so my relatives, hidden away in boston as they were, were presumably safe.

but now it seems that boston had its own witch trial, in 1688, four years before salem, and this one also involved the mathers, and, it ended up in the killing of its victim, one ann glover, a washerwoman from ireland, who had been an indentured servant in barbados and had simply found her way to boston, working there. she could not speak very good english, and people were reminded that the mark of a witch is inability to say the lord's prayer. she was accused of bewitching four children, and she was hanged.

alas, this was the town my ancestors lived in. i shudder to think that they knew about it, or were involved in any way. it's kind of creepy, and it's the true forerunner of the salem witch trials; it's the original. it set the pattern.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

it's a fascinating story and i get drawn into it repeatedly. my ancestors picked up and moved from boston lincolnshire to boston massachusetts in 1633. the guy i was named after, thomas, was a puritan gentleman and friend of john cotton's. in the new world they settled in downtown boston, with a farm in muddy river (what is now brookline) and went about life. he put his 16 year old son, john, in the boston latin school, founded in 1635, and he graduated that same year. now that's kind of fishy for several reasons. one, he was already two years in the new world, and had started doing other things. there was no harvard yet (it was to follow in a year or two), so we can presume his education was just temporary, if he had any at all.

the tutor who he was assigned to, philemon, ran off with Wainwright, a follower of anne hutchinson, to become the founder of exeter new hampshire. anne, as you might know, was banished from the colony along with others, for being a little too fanatical. it's hard to discern where the leveretts stood on this issue. my sense is that they were deeply involved in the hiring of philemon, perhaps less so in the hiring of whoever followed, and that, since hutchinson was a neighbor, they were right in the thick of it, whatever they felt.

so john goes out and joins the artillery, and starts a life of business which is to include owning ships (losing one off the coast of virginia), owning and selling lots of land, and becoming governor of the colony. he was a kind of high-profile character; once he got started, he was all over the place, representing massachusetts in england, hocking this king or that, coming back, becoming deputy governor and then governor. but when his son was born in 1640, to hannah, daughter of the draper who was their neighbor and family friend, co-founder of the school, no sign of the son, hudson, being in the school at all. the son was born in 1640; if the school indeed taught kids of all ages, from five on up to eighteen, you'd think he'd be in there 1645-1663 or thereabouts, or maybe somebody noticed that he'd dropped out, or caused a scandal, or whatever, but instead, no sign, like he's been expunged from the books. and maybe he has. it's a mystery.

the odd thing is, his son, another john, who was to go on to become president of harvard, is all over those books. he entered. he graduated. he gave a speech. he did everything. hudson, for some reason, put his son in the school, but not himself.

it's a mystery, perhaps not to be solved. i'll try my best. i suspect philemon, for some reason. you leave those latin scholars at home alone with a young boy, and, you never know. i've had an instinctual gut hatred for latin from the beginning, and now i find all these ancestors who were deep into it. they wrote a catechisme. they wrote "leverett's latin grammar," or some such thing. i should like latin. instead i like languages, and hate latin. and don't really know why. it's like an echo in my soul that has been passed along. there is some bad experience back there, and i'd like to get to the bottom of it.

hudson, somehow, was damaged for life. didn't join the church, didn't even write it down when he had children. didn't live with the ones he had. came into the record books only when he was selling his father's considerable property. he had one son who turned out well, very well, perhaps brought up by the grandparents. one doesn't know about these things, where were they, actually, and who covered for him when he fell? not sure. by the time he died he owed money, in spite of all the money he was given. and they brought him back, to put him in the family grave, with his mother and grandparents, right there at that little cemetery in downtown boston.