big e

outside of my father, there are a handful of men that have been and continue to be (in some cases) mentors to me…i consider it an honor and a privilege to have known these men…because they are…

men who have made me a better man…

iron sharpens iron, and so one man sharpens another…

one of “my guys” is affectionately known as “big e”…his real name is rev. eric olsen…and he runs luther heights bible camp in the sawtooth wilderness (in central idaho)…he’s been the camp pastor/director there for more than 20 years…i was fortunate enough to have worked closely with eric over the span of 6 summers…a short, but highly potent and influential time in my maturity…

the term “big e” is fitting because he is a big guy…nature made him that way…he’s the kind of guy who can crush boulders with his bare hands and pull fully grown pine trees out of the ground without breaking a sweat…

ever hear of paul bunyan? this guy trained paul bunyan, folks…

no, but seriously…

you won’t see him on the front cover of a magazine or hear about him on twitter…but he’s the kinda guy you should see and hear about there …because he’s a good man, a man who has dedicated his life to the service of others…and when you’re around him this is unmistakably clear…

you won’t know what he’s about by what he says, he speaks sparingly after all…

you’ll know it by what he does…

by his faith…he lives it out every day…

by the way he treats people…the kindness and love he shares with his family, the staff, the campers, the supporting congregations and individuals from those churches…

by the way he works…whether balancing the books, repairing a leaky roof, rebuilding a trail, building a new cabin, raising money for the camp, or digging out the composting toilet…(yes, he’s the camp pastor/director…but, he doesn’t leave the grunt work to someone else…he doesn’t shy away from the dirty jobs)…

working alongside big e is a lesson unto itself…if you can keep up, you can learn a lot…

so, thank you, eric…for everything…you made a difference in my life…you gave me trust, responsibility, and most of all–grace (and there was more than one time when i needed that;)…for a ‘gentle giant’…you were a powerful presence in my life and in the lives of many other people…and i know i’m better for knowing you…

cheers! peace. dett.

 

you can’t handle the truth…

there are traits that make a 16, 17, or 18 year-old male student truly amazing; like fearlessness, youthful optimism and a sense of adventure about the world around him — however, there are two significant adolescent male traits that can be a challenge in the classroom, home and community:  1) the edgy and ‘confident’ attitude that reveals itself as — i know it all and 2) the attitude/posture that says–i don’t care…about anything…

because boys don’t know it all AND should care (about something) …teaching boys is a really important thing for us to do well…in fact, we are at a critical time for ‘bringing up boys’ in u.s. history…a time when we need a few good men–to teach our boys…and i’m not talking about teaching specific subjects or curriculum components…i’m talking about teaching them what it means to be a man…we need male teachers who will stand “toe-to-toe” with boys and shepherd them into adulthood — truly!

don’t think this is teacher’s job? think again…it’s one of the most important things we can do in schools today…and, believe me, there are countless opportunities each day to help ‘grow boys into men’…in fact, there’s probably a teachable moment every time a boy opens his mouth to say something in class, guaranteed–in addition to a responsible male parent and/or family member (if available), most boys need a responsible male teacher in their lives–one who will smack ’em upside the head–figuratively, of course, in the school setting (heh, heh)–in the way that only a grown man can do…

don’t get me wrong, i’ve had amazing women teachers throughout my life; my wife and my sister are two of the best educators i’ve ever seen–they can rock the classroom…and there are thousands of great women teachers out there…and women can teach boys any subject in the book, no doubt…but, we’re not talking about teaching boys subject matter here…

we’re talking about teaching boys man matters

and when it comes to teaching man matters…no one is better equipped for this task than a man…as evident in this quote from dr. leonard sax:

“…when it comes to showing boys how a gentleman behaves–how a gentleman interacts with women, how he responds to adversity, how he serves his community–then there is no substitute for having a male role model…that’s where boys can benefit most, in my judgement, from seeing a man, perhaps a teacher or a coach, who loves to read in his spare time, who participates in projects for habitat for humanity or in community service with his local synagogue or church, who’s a regular guy–not a saint, not rambo, not john wayne…just somebody real”(sax, 2007).

let me give you two, real-life examples about teaching boys man matters from my classroom…times when i needed to go ‘toe-to-toe’ with the boys in my class…

classroom case files (fall, 2007):

male student: men are smarter than women, that’s a fact (other men in class are nodding in agreement)

female student: i agree with them

(i am shocked at this!)

(other male students clap and laugh)

other male students: see, mr. d.!

mr. d.: let me ask you something young men, and the woman over here — where in the world did you get this idea? (we engage in debate and discussion — where i include facts/research that debunks and challenges what the boys put forth)…

it’s important to not let some comments slide; to openly challenge what has been stated with strong counter-arguments that are based in fact–and this was one of those times… and in the back of my mind, i was thinking…come on, do you really believe this? do you really believe this in the year 2007? come on, this is mad men shtuff…

let’s move on to the next example…

classroom case files (spring, 2014):

this next story takes place during a week when were discussing risk factors (for juveniles that may need social services and/or become delinquent)…on one particular day, i had them write down all the things that they do that drives their parents nuts…things that their parents wouldn’t want them doing …and they came up with some good ones: staying out past curfew, lying, using alcohol or drugs, ‘back talking’, not answering their phones, not cleaning their rooms, skipping school, etc…then, i had them flip it and write down all the things that would drive them nuts if they were a parent–things they wouldn’t want their kids doing…

[a few of my students are actually parents (teenage moms), so that always makes these exercises a bit more interesting; fyi-the teen parents i have in class this semester are not in this particular block of students, though i wish they were]

“things they wouldn’t want their kids to do” items: use/become addicted to drugs, drop out of school, bully another student, get arrested, get thrown in  jail, etc…then came one that was gender specific (daughter specific)

get pregnant…

while most parents (regardless of gender) would agree that they wouldn’t want their daughters to get pregnant in high school…this item was voiced by a boy in class and then, immediately, a bunch of other guys chimed in to agree with him and comment on that item…some of the girls agreed, some stayed silent…but, the boys got louder and made “the getting pregnant thing” a one-sided deal, they talked about it like it was “her problem”…this is when i stepped in…

mr. d.: say that again? 

male student: you know, i would definitely be upset if my daughter got pregnant, i wouldn’t tolerate that…but, i would’ve kept her under lock and key beforehand…

mr. d.: what about your son? i take it that you put this item into a different category, according to gender…because you think it’s different for your son?

male student: of course, he’s got more freedom to date and see girls…it would be different with my daughter…you know…it’s what guys do…

mr. d.: what if your son was involved with a girl…and got a girl pregnant? then what? i mean, it takes ‘two to tango’, you know…are you gonna give him a free pass?

the male student started to lose steam…it was at this time that his friends tried to save him, to take his side and come to his rescue…so, they came at me and tried to back me down…

but, i didn’t back down…i continued to push back, hard–against this group of boys…i was forceful and there was iron in my words…

mr. d.: you know, we teach teen moms over here…i’ve had quite a few of them in my classes…and these girls have to take responsibility for their actions–the part they played in the pregnancy, no doubt…but, so should the boys, the teen dads…the boys who chalk this up as a ‘notch on their belts’…a ‘conquest’…like it makes them a man…but, let me tell you something…these guys…most of ’em…they don’t ‘show up’, they disappear–after the fact…you think that’s what it means to be a man?! you think that’s what it means to be a father?!

it got real quiet after that…

importantly, i didn’t shame, belittle, or ‘name-call’ any of the guys in my classroom…but i didn’t sit there quietly either, i didn’t let their comments slide, like it was nothing [importantly, a lot of where they get this mindset from is…the media, their male peers, and some older males (who get it wrong)…the double standard for men and women on this issue is pervasive throughout our society (i’ve got to guard against it myself)…but, it’s no excuse]…it was something they needed to be challenged on, it was something they needed to be called out on…because it’s part of the greater negative worldview regarding women…a negative worldview that some men hold and pass onto the younger generations–that women are objects…for the amusement and pleasure of men–and that kind of thinking affects how men treat women…thinking, after all, affects action (i am one to know, i’ve been there–intentionally and unintentionaly)…so, if you can influence the way a boy thinks, positively, he’ll be a better man for it, he’ll treat the women in his life with love and respect…

there are countless other issues that come up at school that need to be addressed with boys…bullying and harassment, work ethic, motivation, problem-solving, perseverance, responsibility, adversity and how to respond to it, ‘admitting when you’re wrong’, etc…i chose these two examples (that focus on gender bias) because it is an issue that comes up a lot at school (out of the mouths of boys) and in our society, in general …where it is common to equate masculinity with the ‘degradation of women’...male teachers can change that

when a male teacher confronts a boy in class, it lands differently than if the same conversation had taken place in the presence of a female teacher (just as it would be different if a female teacher confronted a girl in class about the domain of women)–it carries a lot weight…or, in biblical terms (proverbs 27:17):

iron sharpens iron, and so one man sharpens another

in these moments, it becomes immediately clear that when boys are up against a male teacher who won’t back down (yet talk to them with respect and reason)…a male who possesses real swagger, who really knows something about the world, who really cares about the world–that their ‘(over) confidence’ and i know it all attitude is most often revealed as a front…and that, most of all, they’ve got a lot to learn

who better to challenge a male than a male teacher? who better to counter a negative behavior in a male, than a male? who better to call out a male on ‘what he thinks is cool’ — but is, in fact, a harmful approach to life, than another male? who better to encourage and support a male, than another male? especially, at this time in their lives, when they really need it — when they are pushing up against every parent and every other authority figure around them…when they are looking for an opponent, a fight — intentionally and deliberately — who better to push back with bravery, wisdom, and love…than another male?

the following observation from poet robert bly soundly sums up such things:

“during the sixties, some young men drew strength from women who in turn had received some of their strength from the women’s movement…one could say that many young men in the sixties tried to accept initiation from women…but only men can initiate men, as only women can initiate women…women can change the embryo to a boy, but only men can change the boy to a man” (bly, 1990).

we don’t need perfection, but we do need a few good men…

a male who is brave is best, a male who is tough is best, a male who is stubborn is best, a male who has been through some shit is best, a male who has moral fiber is best…and above all, a male who cares is best…*

in 2011, 84% of public school (k-12) teachers were female (Feistritzer, 2011)…and, given the impact that a male role-model can have–it is clear that we need more men in this field…men who will match, step for step, the young boys they will go up against every day…and given the class-sizes of schools across the nation, i think we can add men and balance the ‘teacher-profile ledger’ without threatening the jobs of women teachers…

so, men, sign up today!

*nowhere in this section do i mention that the male has to be straight…that’s not a prerequisite for this kind of work…for teaching man matters…one of my former colleagues–that i still hold in the highest regard–was/is an openly gay choir director at a church i worked at in omaha, nebraska…talk about stones…try doing that in nebraska, people…anyways, this guy had the respect and admiration of the staff, the families and the kids in the church community…and was an outstanding leader and role model for the boys in our youth programs…

recommended reading: boys adrift: the five factors driving the growing epidemic of unmotivated boys and underachieving young men–video games, teaching methods, prescription drugs, environmental toxins, and the devaluation of masculinity, dr. leonard sax, 2007; (one of the best books i’ve ever read about teaching and parenting boys in america); profile of teachers in the u.s. 2011, c. emily feistritzer, 2011: http://www.ncei.com/Profile_Teachers_US_2011.pdf; iron john-a book about men,  robert bly, 1990.

your in trouble, man…

one thing that still surprises me about our society is that…sometimes i encounter men who never got a copy of the manual of bathroom policies and procedures: men’s room edition…volume VII in the expansive body of work that concerns the ‘man code’…

it’s like they missed that day of class or never got the memo for this type of thing…

it doesn’t matter that the manual isn’t an actual publication or that it isn’t written down anywhere, for that matter…

because it’s the kind of thing that is passed down from generation to generation…it’s the kind of thing that is understood, or should be understood among all men…at least, in america…press play on lee greenwood’s proud to be an american…

what should be understood, what is so very important to understand…is…what you do and what you don’t do in the men’s room…not knowing these things (the do’s and the don’ts), not knowing the rules is a problem…and in the worst case scenarios, not knowing the rules could result in the revocation of your ‘man card’…

that should give you an idea of just how serious these offenses and violations are…

i should know…because i’ve been violated multiple times at work recently…

let me recount the tales…

one day, i walked into the men’s room at our school…

[it should be noted that our school does not have staff bathrooms…so, we have to use the same bathrooms the kids use…which means we’ve got bathrooms that look like all hell broke loose in there (this usually happens as soon as 30 minutes into the start of the school day as best as we can figure)…graffiti, trash, damaged stall doors and walls, un-flushed toilets, you name it…in all honesty, it looks like a scene straight out of the science-fiction classic escape from new york–with some of those same looking characters ‘in and out of there’ all day long…sometimes, when i’m in there, it gives me a bad feeling–the heebiejeebies…like…i’m not getting out of here alive]

and, i found my urinal…it’s the one that is located against the far wall…on one side of my urinal is a second urinal (there’s only two) and on the other side is the wall i just mentioned…behind me (if i’m facing my urinal) are two stalls…on the other side of the urinals are two sinks/mirrors…

anyways…i’m at my urinal, doing my business…alone…a moment of contentment, you know…

when the door creaks open…

and ‘a fellow’ comes in (all males in this post shall remain nameless, to protect the innocent)…then it happens…he does the unthinkable…

he saddles up to the urinal next to me and starts doing his thing (violation #1)…

then, he commits a second violation almost immediately…he starts talking to me (violation #2)…

let me break this down for you…these are two things you don’t do in the men’s room…especially, in tandem…these are two blatant and reckless violations of the ‘man-code’…

first, let’s address violation #1…any man who knows the manual…knows that if there are just two urinals (as in this case)…and one man is already at one urinal…the ‘open one’ is not really open…especially, when both stalls are free…in this case, the correct move for the new arrival is to take one of the vacant stalls

[this is true in just about every men’s bathroom situationbut the exceptional cases, the outliers…the rare cases where there are exceptions to the rules…which we’ll get to in a moment]

it’s known, it’s understood…

at the same time, this guy adds insult to injury by trying to talk to me…this is a big “no-no”…this isn’t a time for a casual chit-chat like we’re having a coffee at starbucks or enjoying a big ginger at the local irish pub (one of the best bars in minneapolis)…this is a time when you’re exposed and vulnerable…it’s it place of privacy–and it’s no place to start-up a conversation or make ‘small talk’–you’ve got to respect the space, man…

it’s known, it’s understood…

or so i thought…

unbelievably, later that same day…another ‘fellow’ committed the same exact offense, with the same exact one-two punch: 1) he took the adjoining urinal when there were two open stalls and 2) he tried to talk to me?!…and later that week, the guy who had violated me the first time–got me again (and then, it all became quite clear to me–this guy, missed that day of class…this guy, never got the memo)…

anyways, what happened was…i had just passed him in the hallway–he was talking someone…and, i thought–i’m safe…boy, i was wrong!  i had barely got to work and he was there, right next to me–again!  by the third incident (sixth violation) i was so rattled that i was hugging my urinal like it was my last true friend in the world…like tom hanks gripped wilson in castaway…if i was any closer, i would’ve been standing in the basin

so, nowadays, i survey the scene completely (immediate area and nearby hallways) and have only come to accept a “no visual-contact” radius (for those two characters) of 100-yards as my safe zone

anyways, if you’re an up and coming man, a young lad (this includes you, jack)…pay close attention to what’s been said here…and to the few rare exceptions below…and don’t ever forget what you’ve been told…

urinal decorum: exceptions to the rules (situations where it’s o.k. to take the urinal next to a man who’s already ‘in position’)…

  • you can take up a position next to an occupied urinal if there is a partition between the urinals
  • you can take up a position next to an occupied urinal if there are no open stalls and you ‘can’t wait’
  • you can take up an adjoining position if you are at major event like a football game, concert, etc…where there is a trough urinal (the over-arching rule in this situation is: get in and get outquickly!)
  • in such cases where there are multiple urinals and multiple men in position, you will, to your best efforts, attempt to keep one urinal between you and any other man in position 
  • the only time you can talk to someone at an adjoining urinal is when a) you are drunk and/or b) when the person taking up a position next to you is your homie

[the policies, procedures (and exceptions) have been included in this post with the expressed written permission of the international coalition of men’s men]

*the term violation refers to a norm violation…a norm is defined as an unwritten rule for socially acceptable behavior…other such violations would be sitting next to someone in a movie theater when there are other available ‘open seats’; farting in church; eating off of someone else’s plate; etc (many others of which were highlighted brilliantly in the show seinfeld)…

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