The Boomerang Nebula

The Boomerang Nebula is purported to be the coldest place in space. Science says so, anyway. It’s all relative in my mind–I could name about 300 galaxies in my own soul right now that would give this place a run for its money. According to mine and Carl Sagan’s calculations, we are all made of stardust. Einstein chimes in to further complicate the matter by proving everything is relative.

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”
― Carl Sagan, Cosmos

I introduced the Boomerang Nebula to my eighth grade class this week. “Located 5,000 light-years away, this young planetary nebula has a morbid creator: a dying star at its center.” The kids didn’t catch the solemnity in my voice when I said this. Nor did they piece together the enormity of this reality. I explained to them that stars are at their brightest when they are dying. After nebulae are done expanding and exploding, they’ve fulfilled their duty of blowing our minds.

I heard one chuckle. Someone murmured, “oh cool.”

I should give you some back story to my star sadness here. Things have been a bit rough at school. This week was the first time I applied my newly-acquired, more complex teacher school skills to the classroom. Eighth grade responded the fastest and in the most positive way. It’s fair to say that all my classes responded well. That is, until the nebulae exploded Friday.

After lunch,  my sixth grade class filed into the room more quietly than usual. I prepared the SMART board for our lesson on heredity. Almost immediately, two students raised their hands to ask if they could talk to me in the hallway, it will only take a minute. Keep in mind that one of these students recently got our class “MVP” award for most improved in science, not to mention the “Peacemaker” award for the month of April. In the hallway, they explained to me with hushed tones that they learned in a previous class they should confront someone when they feel disrespected. Their teacher told them to confront whomever made them feel bad in any way. One kid expounded on this, saying he has issues with anger management and he needed me to know he didn’t like it when I called him out on talking. He doesn’t like getting blamed when he isn’t always the only one talking (note: he is always the one talking). I felt myself getting defensive, but I responded by saying I appreciate the way they approached me so maturely. I told them I was proud of them for having the courage to tell me how they felt. I listened more than I spoke. But when I did chime in, I explained that it’s my duty as their teacher to be consistent in how I uphold consequences when students break the rules. They shook their heads in agreement and we returned to the class.

As I walked in, every student looked up silently at me. There was an eerie feeling to the room. I sat down to scroll to our next lesson. I opened my mouth to speak and a student’s hand shot up. “Ms. Lucy, we have something to say to you…as a unit.” I told them to go for it, having no context for what they were about to say. For the next 30 minutes, each student, one by one, stood up to air their grievances. The class had choreographed a teacher roast, ostensibly to manage their anger. This was a “planned group confrontation.” Comments included how “disrespected” they all felt by me. How “wrong” it was when I shared a stat about women–African American women in particular–suffering from heart disease at a disproportionate rate than the rest of the population. How much they “hate” when I “talk about David Bowie.” That my class and their art class are “the worst classes we have.”

This was not a group confrontation–this was a mutiny.

I managed to keep my shit together for the duration of class. At about 5 til 2pm, I set them up with a reading, put a student leader in charge, and excused myself to “make copies.” I rushed to the bathroom downstairs to cry in private with what little dignity I had left. I wiped my eyes and returned to the room to dismiss the kids. I locked the door behind the last one to leave. After about 2 minutes, the kids came rushing back, banging on the door. They knew they had fucked up. I didn’t answer. My last period class came in and they could tell something was wrong. So amidst our chats about DNA replication, we discussed some strategies as a group for how to not take things personally. We decided to make this a “life lessons” class period. I did my best not to go into too many details about what just happened, but news travels fast in a small school.

Friday hurt. Friday hurt real bad.

So I did the next best thing I could think to do. I met a newcomer, new best friend, for coffee at the ‘bucks. She told me her story, and I listened. We went together to a speaker meeting afterward. One alcoholic talking to another–that is the glue that binds us. More accurately, when we share our joys and woes, we act as fundamental elements that work together with cohesion. I taught something along those lines about surface tension. Because science.

I felt like shit yesterday, but I didn’t drink. I didn’t want to. But I could see why I would have in the past. Instead, I exercised a recovery muscle by listening to someone else. That halted the neurotransmitter shit show bonanza in my head, at least for the night.

The first thing I did when I finished breakfast this morning was meditate. Then I called a lady from the program. Then I got a 95% on my teacher school test. Then I remembered the most important lesson I’ve taught that sixth grade class thus far:

The Hater Ratio – 4:1 – which postulates:

For every one amazing person, there will be 4 haters who will try to bring you down. If you don’t have haters, you’re doing something wrong.  Pay them no mind.

After many reflections filled with staring out into space, I came up with a lesson plan for Monday. I will have the students read the Saint Francis Prayer. The Objective: To identify effective ways to love one another. They will spend their 50-minute class period writing and re-writing this prayer. I will smile, but I will not speak. I’ll let Franny do the talking.

Saint Francis Prayer

Then I will tell myself this, over and over again:

“So, the next time you are having a bad day, try this: close your eyes, take a deep breath, and contemplate the chain of events that connects your body and mind to a place billions of lightyears away, deep in the distant reaches of space and time. Recall that massive stars, many times larger than our sun, spent millions of years turning energy into matter, creating the atoms that make up part of you, the Earth, and everyone you have ever known and loved.” 


Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

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I write about my womanly experiences in sobriety, most of which I'm glad I remember.

5 thoughts on “The Boomerang Nebula”

  1. Whoever prompted these kids to ” confront” someone who makes them feel bad ” in any way” did them a grave disservice. The better, and more life affirming lesson would be to teach them that they get to choose how they feel, in any given moment. That their feelings aren’t facts, and that they should examine their own part, their own behavior, the ONE thing in their life they can control and change. Talking in class is wrong, disrespectful. That is exactly why that kid felt disrespected. This is how that works. I can guarantee you, if I feel like someone is talking behind my back, it’s because I’ve been talking behind someone else’s back. I saw it all in my 4th step. For every single resentment that I had at someone’s treatment towards me, I had been treating someone else the same way, one name up, two names down. It was a massive tangle of my behaving the same way I was being treated. It suddenly came clear for the first time ever. I would need help, I surrendered again. I was humbled that I know nothing. All we can do is look out, away from ourselves, myself. It’s what you did when listening to a fellow travelers story. I can guarentee you, that the bulk of these kids feel really bad, and have no clue why. I feel sad for them for that. What an absolutely horrible, damaging lesson to teach those kids. It makes my blood boil. For you, you have the tools, you are using them, you are doing your part. Of course it hurts. You genuinely care for these kids, you take your responsibility to them seriously. I pray that God will show you a way to un teach them what will only damage their happiness, their relationship to life, to others and to themselves. This whole scenario is so wrong on so many levels. You didn’t drink, you are wildly Blessed, you are a smashing success, your experience will benefit others. You are loved. May your light continue to shine bright. There is life on Mars!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Barb, you are positively stellar. The entire situation makes me sad for the kids. I’ve worked on (trying to) stay out of self pity about this. It’s hard not to examine over and over again what I could have done differently to help these students feel appreciated and cared for. What I did that was actually productive was that I confronted the teacher whose class generated such a mob mentality. She deflected in so many ways, but I knew it and I just let her. She did not take responsibility when she was the one who overheard and contributed to the class discussion about confrontation–she knew they were going to confront me. She encouraged them to do so. This disturbs me to no end. I emailed the principal about what happened without implicating her. He let me know we will resolve this issue together.

      I thank God for the tools I have. I simply would be drunker than drunk had someone hurt me this deeply in the past. Now it’s a matter of recognizing that I’m grateful to at least care so much about doing right by the kids.

      If it weren’t for the program, I’d be a sad sap right now. But it’s connections with others in recovery that makes situations like these a learning experience rather than a black hole of emotions.

      There really is hope and life on Mars!!!


      1. I have become very practiced and measured on not giving advice. (I still do- we aren’t perfect lol) But I think you did the right thing by talking to the instigator, then letting the principle know. What she did was a despicable lesson for those kids and a horrific act of selfish, immature behavior on her part. She will create another class of victims who won’t know how to manage themselves in this life. I could go on and on. This is the everyone who showed up gets a medal, everyone better treat me the way I think I should be treated mentality that is going to take us down.

        If I were a parent of one of those kids, I would be furious, I would be on the principles office asking for her resignation. But ya know what? They were probably taught the same way. It’s why we now have more than one generation who can’t deal. Oh my God this is such a perfect storm of what’s wrong.

        I hope in this lifetime, you get to see what this was all about and feel vindicated, I have seen it happen several times in my own journey, a ” ooohhh that’s why that happened” moment. There’s a whole lotta people out there who desperately need our tools.

        You hold your head high. You know what’s in your heart. I know from reading your blog, that teaching is your calling. You are touching a nerve that needs to be touched. Courage and strength to you my friend. Look at those cavemen go.


  2. And PS, f that b***** I just wanna punch her in the face. That’s my get drunk, stay drunk self, and how I really feel about this scenario. You scream, cry, curse, Feel it. We don’t always tap dance through our trials gracefully. We are allowed that. We hang on by our fingernails more often than not, what we don’t do, is drink the poison and hope the other person dies. Grrrrrrr


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