Mrs. Funke’s Advice for the Upcoming Solar Eclipse

Idaho is in sheer pandemonium over the upcoming solar eclipse. Hotels, campsites, and in some cases, people’s personal residences are booked. There are daily news stories about stocking up so you don’t have to leave the house, warnings about traffic overload, and cell service being non-existent. One small town about an hour and a half from Boise has already declared a state of emergency. They are billing it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I remember one when I was in Kindergarten, and Mrs. Funke was my teacher. Granted, it may not have passed directly over us, but evidently it was close enough for Mrs. Funke to scare the bejesus out of her group of five year olds.

Mrs. Funke was quite possibly the most interesting person I’d ever met. One, her name was Funke. She pronounced it just like you’d think, like a funky smell or doing the Funky Chicken. She wasn’t like the Fuch’s who tried to convince everyone their name rhymed with spoosh. Then, and this was the best thing, Mrs. Funke was blind! I was fascinated by her. I would watch her grade papers, which she did by holding them at nose’s length and studying small sections at a time. I didn’t know about Daredevil at the time, but it wouldn’t have surprised me if Mrs. Funke was a seemingly harmless school teacher by day and a badass crime fighter at night. My five year old brain didn’t think about the fact that being a crime fighter in my tiny town would have been pretty boring.

Yes, Mrs. Funke sparked my imagination, but that didn’t mean I wanted to be blind like her. Gram was the night custodian at our K-12 school, and I was often her helper. Mrs. Funke’s classroom took the longest because Gram made sure everything was back in the exact right place after she cleaned. One night, probably because I was chattering about how cool Mrs. Funke’s blindness was, Gram blindfolded me and told me to empty the trash. Blindness not only became uncool, it scared the hell out of me.

There was a solar eclipse in October of that year. We didn’t have glasses or anything so the whole school (we averaged about fifteen students per grade) was going to watch the eclipse on TV in the multi-purpose room. We would have to leave our building and walk across a small part of the playground to get there. Mrs. Funke lined us up like usual. Different this time, however, was she had us hold hands with the person in front and in back. There were uncomfortable giggles and a few groans because boys had cooties.

Mrs. Funke stared with her powerful milky blue eyes until all hands were taken and we were quiet. “Class, it is extremely important that you follow my directions today. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Mrs. Funke,” we said in reverent unison. There was something about Mrs. Funke that was different than before. I didn’t like it.

“I want you to keep your eye on the shoes of the person in front of you. Do not look up because if you do, the solar eclipse will get in your eyes and make you blind like me. Do you understand?”

Thirteen heads snapped downward in unison. “Yes, Mrs. Funke,” we said in small, horrified voices.  To myself, I muttered, “Hell’s Friday!” because I knew in that moment Mrs. Funke became blind because she looked at a solar eclipse. She didn’t really, but I didn’t find that out until much later. 

That’s all I really remember about the last once-in-a-lifetime experience of a solar eclipse, but it’s a pretty vivid memory. What I really want to say, however, is that if you are planning to watch the eclipse this year, please don’t look directly at the sun. It really can be harmful, and nobody wants to be blind like Mrs. Funke. And, if you’re coming to Idaho, please be a respectful visitor.


The 5 Real Reasons Your Kids Want Fidget Spinners

As a sixth grade English teacher, I absolutely became an expert on the fidget spinner. After much experience and hands on research, I will say upfront that I am not a fan. At first, I was open to them because they promised student focus in my classroom. Like many things, however, the agenda for fidget spinner owners became much different than advertised. Kids really want them for the following reasons:

  • Hypnosis by fidget spinner. Many a student became stupefied by the blur of spinning color, the soft whirring, and the gentle breeze kissing their faces. Perhaps if I’d studied the ways of hypnotists I would have known how to manipulate my students. As it was, I couldn’t bring them back from wherever they had gone.
  • Temperature control. Spin them fast enough and a fidget spinner becomes a personal fan. A room full of sixth graders this spring looked more like a room full of menopausal women experiencing hot flashes.
  • An experience in capitalism and criminal activity. Students bought, sold, and traded fidget spinners. Sounds innocent enough, but middle school brains took over. For some, stealing was the easiest way to get the coolest spinners. Others formed a spinner cartel to restrict competition and keep their profits high. And, perhaps most shocking of all, the time-honored middle school rule of no tradebacks was eliminated.     
  • To throw. Even with the risk of losing your fidget spinner forever, the urge to throw a spinner like a Ninja star, or to see if it could fly like a helicopter, became too strong. We all found out, a multitude of times, that a spinning plastic object does hurt if it hits you, and fidget spinners do not make good propellers.  
  • Make a monotonous noise. If thirty spinners spin in unison, it creates a sound that reminds one of being in a beehive. For the adult ear, this leads to massive headaches and facial tics. The advanced fidget spinners figured out that for a more robust, dentist drill like sound, you can place your fidget spinner under the hand dryer in the bathroom.  

I gave fidget spinners my best shot, but in the end, I, like many other teachers, banned them from the classroom. I emailed my parents to let them know of my decision, but also said that if they felt like their student needed the spinner to focus, they could contact me. I got zero replies which tells me that parents knew what their kids were up to. Even the “experts” found that fidget spinners don’t help focus, unless you’re talking about focus on the fidget spinner itself. Click here for an article on the subject. Fidget spinners had a good run, but I’m really hoping that by the time the new school year rolls around they will have lost their appeal. Well, fidget spinners, here’s to the biggest Hell’s Friday of the 2016-2017 school year!

We All Have Hell’s Fridays

Hell’s Friday may be an odd name for a blog. Particularly a blog that I intend to be not at all hellish. ‘Hell’s Friday’ is actually a catch phrase my grandmother used often. As a kid growing up in a very small, very Mormon, very conservative Idaho town, I liked when Gram said ‘Hell’s Friday’ because it felt rebellious, perhaps even a bit dangerous. And, there’s nothing quite like a good ‘Hell’s Friday’ to express an emotion that’s somewhere between a ‘damn’ and a real get-your- mouth-washed-out-with-soap cuss word.

Hell’s Fridays are those instances that leave us frustrated, irritated, and surprised. It’s also the Hell’s Fridays that make life interesting, and often funny. And, of course, it is through those Hell’s Fridays that we learn those lessons we need to make it through this thing called life.

I Googled ‘Hell’s Friday’ once. After spending way too much time digging into some obscure scholarly work on the history of England, and watching clips from Monty Python movies, I found the meaning was not quite as optimistic as my own. Hell’s Friday, according to one scholar, was the day during the plague that the cart came through to pick up the dead. Like “Ring Around the Rosie”, I think the meaning probably evolved as time went on. At least I hope so because I want this blog to be helpful and humorous for the reader.

Hell’s Friday, let’s do this thing!

Watch the “Bring Out Your Dead” clip from Monty Python: