The Building Blocks of Disillusionment

If you've read my blog before my current long hiatus, you'll know I'm kind of a Lego nerd.  

The photo is too far away to see the suck
Well a few months back, I was visiting family in Bellingham, WA. and walked into a hipster-freindly antique mall.  Even my wife was enjoying herself, which is amazing because she absolutely hates the smell of musty old stuff.  I, on the other hand, love playing pop-culture anthropologist with all the neat stuff from the turn of the 20th century and beyond.  

In the midst of all the refurbished farm equipment and oil and gas signs was a corner filled with toys from my dad's era. I saw a familiar shaped cylinder that I would've swore was Tinker Toys...but no, it was a little known toy called American Plastic Bricks.  

Not Lego, or even K'nex or Kre-O or Mega Bloks, but AMERICAN Plastic Bricks.  

I removed the Mason jar-like lid and inspected the contents. They appeared all there. I gladly paid the eight dollars for this American treasure.  Even my daughters were excited, because they under packed toys for the mini-vacation. Who doesn't like building blocks? 

But it was fool's gold. There was nothing patriotic about these bricks. Unless you consider cheapness, bad engineering and frustration of 1980s Ford and GM vehicles--American ideals, then yes, this was American.
Being the most popular car in Venezuela is like winning "Best Smile" in
a Methadone clinic.  
"These are horrible, Dad," my daughter Lily explained within 30 seconds of me dumping the contents on the table.  

Horrible doesn't begin to describe it. It's as if all the Baby Boomer kids who were pushed into the burgeoning career of plastics but were D-students in plastics college all converged to the American Plastic Brick company.  

Some of the bricks might have been shale; or insect exoskeletons. They disintegrated upon attaching the pieces together. Most wouldn't even snap together...and if they did, they refused to get along or stay together for more than a few seconds. I wonder how many engineering and/or architects learned how to build with this crap? It does, however, possibly, explain my father's remodeling improvisations.

Some businesses, like the American Plastic Brick Co. deserve to go belly-up. Some plastics people are in the wrong field. There are better products, better jobs, out there, so...

"I will make this work, even if I have to Krazy Glue it!"
I'm done teaching. The bricks were stacked against me, and I couldn't force the pieces together even with Krazy Glue. Bad timing, bad engineering, bad schooling, I don't know...I just...I just can't do it anymore. I seemed to be in the wrong place at the right time, but now, for the first time...

I wasn't wanted.

I can understand budget cuts and being low man on the totem pole, and missing application deadlines, and having HR place "pet projects" in my place. But I was always promised something...always told I had a place. Everyone said it was the next retirement, the next opening...etc.   I was like that specialty Lego piece that is really interesting to play with, but only fits one exclusive set.

They did this to me for eight years.  Five years as a temporary part-time teacher, two as a long term substitute, and multiple filling-in-the-gaps during all those stints. I taught everything they asked. Of course my Lego coloring never seemed to fit the set.  Gov't, 7th grade block, Middle school computers class, Freshman English, 6th grade Title Reading...

But last year I was in my corresponding set. Teaching high school English and being the technology coordinator for the building. Everyone said I was doing a fantastic job. For once, I felt like my time had finally come. They had finally looked at the instructions and put me in my proper place.

But like a toddler sibling coming into the room and destroying your Lego models, my teaching world was destroyed overnight. I interviewed. Again. (District policy is that temporary positions are always reopened at the beginning of the next year). They knew my history.  And...and...they gave it to someone else.

Who, ironically, turned them down days later.  I got a district form e-mail telling me I didn't get the job. Like I was some unknown applicant fresh from college.

And the indignation and anger and frustration and pain...after eight years...caused me to break character and voice my opinion on Facebook. I was done. I was done teaching. And I vented some very calculated, but not personal, words on my OWN Facebook page.

But the job was going to reopen, because the hired applicant turned the job down.

But somehow my Facebook post had made it to the eyes of some higher ups (whom I'm not friends with). And this Facebook post proved that I was now "unreliable and untrustworthy," in their words. Two qualities I've spent my entire life trying to prove I am.

I was not granted an interview.  But I was called, that very same day, by HR offering me a long-term sub job at the district alternative school. Like I'm some booty-call teaching idiot. Like they could tell me with one hand that I'm not good enough, but then say, but you are good enough for this...

Teaching is a business, and I am a specialty Lego piece, and they are American Plastic Bricks, and we don't mesh well together. I get that.                      Now.

So now I sit here typing as my wife is in the classroom teaching, and my children are at school, and it's not easy being home, alone.  Education was what I WAS.  I should be in a classroom. And the 5 stages of grief are all there at the same time.  Anger, Denial/Isolation, Depression, Acceptance, and Bargaining.

Hopefully the keys to the house of David
will replace the stress in my shoulders.  
Maybe I'm a cheap plastic brick? Or Maybe I'm a specialty Lego piece? I just haven't found my place yet.

But I will someday.  God closes doors that no man can open.

Now, if only He could help getting one of these book publishing doors open. 


  1. Chris, I'm sorry to hear that teaching didn't work out the way you had hoped. It sucks when hopes and dreams don't pan out. It is great to see you back on Plumbed Down! I always enjoyed your blog and what you do here. Good to have it back.

  2. I know your faults well, but a few of the words that best say who you ARE: Honest. Trustworthy. Reliable. They would be in the top 5 of your attributes.

  3. I'm sorry that your passion for teaching isn't happening for you. I know that has to be frustrating. But now you have the unique opportunity to look with expectancy to whatever God has next. . .and perhaps having no idea for a while what that might be. It's not an easy position to be in, as I well know, but it is a position that brings growth that you can't possibly imagine. I look forward to "hearing" what comes next.

  4. Ugh. I know this pain intimately. It angers me so much.
    I've been gone from blogging lately, too. I got an adjunct teaching position, and I know exactly how expendable I am. I am grateful for the money after a year of donating plasma and whatnot to keep afloat.
    Teaching is a calling, not something we do because it's so amazing and we get great benefits and are treated well. That people don't respect that? It enrages me, as I'm sure it does you, too.
    In any case, I am so sorry about this.