It has been over a year since I have been able to open my blog to write. That has been hard for me. Writing has always been my outlet; since I struggle sometimes to get my mind to order my thoughts. My “stream of consciousness” has been dammed up for over a year. Early one morning I decided to write. There is a lot to unpack and I need to shed my blockage. I apologize for any grammar errors, rambling, or any other mistakes.

2020 entered with high hopes. My We the People team just won State in December with a NARROW 3-point over our friends at Fall Creek Junior High…their teacher, Patrick, is a dear friend and a knowledgeable sounding board for teaching We the People in the chaos of the Trump administration. As it was an election year Tony, Kevin, I anticipated that the Trump administration, the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, and the election would drive a lot of our National’s questions. Also, my second Weople National champions would be interviewing for Camp Tecumseh in the spring which would fulfill a promise I made to them in the delirium of the school year ending that I would not retire until they had a chance to be counselors…not to mention that this group of Weoples would make for great counselors. Most importantly, my oldest daughter, Caitlin, would marry her fiancée, Lucas, in October. Laurel and I could not be happier with our second great son-in-law in the last 2 years. Our family was growing and we loved it. Also, Caitlin’s dear friend, Diana, and her fiancé Jordy asked me to be their officiant for the wedding in April. Then Covid-19…

Immediately after we shut it on nearly no notice in March, the Center for Civic Education made the call that the high school and middle school Nationals would both be cancelled and replaced with an on-line competition. Telling my kids this was so hard. They and their teachers were devastated. I so wanted to share the DC experience with my kids and they were so excited for this as well. The experience of Nationals competition and the Washington DC experience was a fitting tribute to a group of hard working kids who poured their souls into the program all year. My heart ached and still aches for these kids.

One of my favorite Camp pictures sent to us by (I think) Jason Slain. Tony and I waiting for the buses at lunch time on Day 3.

Nearly immediately after the Civic Education Center’s announcement, we found out that Camp Tecumseh would be cancelled for us in the spring. This new devastated to me on a personal level. I have ran the Camp Tecumseh with my friends for 24 years…it is the highlight of my school year…a respite from traditional school…a perfect mixture of education, leadership and fun. We have reached so many 7th grade and high school counselors. I cannot explain the bond the Tecumseh creates between the directors and my beloved counselors. The cancellation would deprive me the chance to say goodbye to a wonderful group of seniors…many of which were on my second We the People team. Every open house reinforced the loss as Tony and I would run into seniors that lost their senior year at Camp. This ripped my heart open. This senior class was so special to me. In addition, we had a number of teacher kids in the 7th grade; to include the kids of two of the Camp Tecumseh co-directors that would not experience the program that demanded so much time from their fathers. To compound the sense of loss was the simple fact that I really liked my 7th grade students. They were a fun group. Knowing that they would not experience the purest educational experience of hands-on education in cooperative small groups with ample amounts of fun mixed in caused me to lose sleep which some of you know I have problems sleeping as it is.

Congratulations Dr. Thorpe!!

Then the world shut down; on the fly we were virtual and trying to teach on-line. This robbed me of the thing that I enjoy most about teaching…interactions with kids. This year my wonderful principal (and current Indiana Middle School Principal of the Year) purchased for me white board desks that would fit into a U-shape (perfect for We the People units). I had to get rid of some furniture in my room since the desks were bigger than a normal desks. So I game up my teacher desk and decided to sit in any open seat in the classroom. I should have done this long ago. I enjoyed the chance to bounce around between students and engage them one-on-one or in small groups during class. It brought joy to my heart. Suddenly, I was trying to reach through comments on Canvas. It was a struggle.

I had some hope that maybe things would ease in August when we went back to school…I was so wrong. We started virtually, came back partially and then were virtually once again. On-line competition for the my new We the People team was once again via Zoom. It is so hard to teach and reach kids in this environment. I watch kids that I know I could reach if they were with me everyday. Teaching in this environment robs me of the hallway talks; the banter of teaching that fills my room, the facial expressions of confusion or understanding, the ability to pull a kid aside, all the things that I felt connected me with students was hindered or impossible.

I have struggled this year with depression. There were days that I felt like I was acting in the role of myself. My internal wiring needs to be able to compartmentalize and make sense of my world. This year has been a struggle to do these two processes that have been my worldview for so many years. I am thankful for dear friends that listened to me trying to simplify and understand my world without trying to fix me. My internal wiring does not accept very well people trying to fix me…I need input, but without telling me what to do disguised as advice. What I needed the most was to arrive to acceptance in my own way…in my own time. Special acknowledgement to my friends; Tony for taking on so much of the burden in We the People…I never asked, he just knew that was what I needed; and Kevin…who was just Kevin…patient, kind, and helpful…without any feeling of obligation or being put out in any way. I can say without a doubt that where I am now would not have been possible without them. Slowly…really slowly…my head and heart started to work in conjunction with each other. While still mourning all the losses my focus changed more to what I have gained instead of only what I have lost.

The sun rises!!

I found after some time that despite the gut-punch that 2020 provided there was so much to celebrate.

However, what anchored me to the goodness of the world was the goodness that surrounded me. That leads me to the joys of the year.

2020 We the People National Champions

These kids….while I shed tears for their loss of a trip to DC; that did not change how I feel about their accomplishments. This group of Weoples overcame the challenges; they had grown at every stage. I laughed so much with these kids; Unit 5’s “Addi wall of quotes”…that I have not had the heart to take down, Unit 2’s refusal to make the same mistake twice, the running commentary of Unit 6, the constant singing of my choir girls, the evil genius brilliance of Unit 1, Unit 4’s constant belief that they were terrible…even though I knew they were brilliant, the absolute growth of Unit 3’s “girl power”, the twin-power intelligence of Strawhacker boys, and the rise of leaders like Casey, McKinley, Maddie, Owen, and Madelyn. This group was the epitome of hard work…they approached the challenge of getting ready for a Zoom Nationals with determination and work ethic. I could not be prouder of them for the work and perseverance getting ready for Nationals. When they were announced as the winners of the competition…my heart filled with joy. My biggest regret is that the virus has robbed us to celebrate in person…the kids did a drive-by of my house which touched my soul. I made their end of year video and shared it with them on Zoom, but could not share the end-of-year experience with them.

I think someone who has been a Weople can understand the bond the develops between the team and its lucky teachers. Some of the these kids have been my student for two years. More impactful is the shared experience of We the People…the struggle, the learning, the willingness to rise from ashes, the competition and the daily challenges of preparing to compete. It is what makes the goodbyes the hardest as it is the finality of the experience. My hope is that the experience is a building block for future leadership and civic involvement. My goodness; we need an infusion of civic mindedness in our country. These kids are family to me and I love them like family. I take pride when I saw three of them be elected as freshmen class officers and one elected as a co-captain as freshman to the Girls Soccer team.

I am sorry it has taken me so long to acknowledge these kids on my blog…writer’s block is a real thing.

I want to leave with this video that my kids made (Casey put it all together and produced it) for me at the end of the year.

Diana and Jordy’s Wedding

2020 did feature a another first for me. One of Caitlin’s best friends, Diana, and Diana’s fiancé, Jordy, asked me to be the officiate for their wedding. Of course, I was honored but scared to death. The easiest thing for me was the 5 seconds of “seminary” to become an officiant “ordained” by the Universal Life Church. When I asked Diana and Jordy what they wanted for a ceremony; their instructions were some religion, some wisdom, no “obeying” and a whole lot of “we trust you to make it special”. For someone like me that means a lot of writing and research. Over the Christmas break, I wrote their wedding vow script (17 pages) and for those of you that know me well realize that I would obsess with making sure the vow taught all the things I wanted a young couple to know before embarking on their life-journey together; I incorporated The Prophet, Tuesdays with Morrie, The Alchemist, Bob Marley, the Talmud, and Rabbi Michael Josephson into the vows. I had met and had a run through with the family on both sides in February and felt good after seeing many tears and smiles. Of course, I tinkered on the script more after the meeting—me just being me. Originally the wedding was to be in April, but because of Covid they moved it to July 4th weekend. It was one of my favorite experiences in my life…the chance to marry a young couple that were like my children to me made the experience even sweeter.

The Wedding of Caitlin Fassold and Lucas Grecco

There are few moments in your life that are truly perfect. In my life I have experienced a few of them. Two of those moments are the weddings of my lovely daughters. My daughters got married out of order…this may seem weird, but it impacted me. Caitlin’s birth changed me at my core. For the first time in my life I understand what unconditional love meant. When she held my pinky in the hospital my life became secondary; I understood that I would sacrifice every one of my remaining breaths for her to breathe one more time. There was nothing that I would not do for her and her sister. Giving away Ally had been a traumatic “dad experience”; my heart ached at one level, but my heart was filled on another.

Adding to the perfect moment in both cases was the fact I loved their choices in men. Ally’s Matt is like a son to me. He has been around my house for many years. His sense of humor and undying love for my daughter is a father-in-law’s dream. Lucas is perfect for Caitlin. They balance each other. They laugh together and enjoy all their idiosyncrasies. In short, they love each other. Making our family even more complete is the fact the Matt and Lucas are friends and now the girls live about five houses away from each other in Whitestown.

Standing in the building waiting to walk Caitlin down the aisle there was moment of great peace. The day was perfect for an outdoor ceremony. It was warm, but not hot. The day was clear and the scene was scripted perfectly. Caitlin looked like an angel. As we waited you could feel a lifetime of love passing between us; she is her father’s daughter…she got many of my good traits and some of my not so good traits; luckily, she got enough of her mother to balance her out. When the door opened and we walked into the late afternoon sun it was as if the world was in its greased grooves…it was perfect. When we walked down the aisle I had tears, of course–I am still tender-hearted; but the tears were of joy. Joy that Laurel and I had completed our jobs…our kids made it through high school, graduated college, became gainfully employed, and married wonderful men that will be great mates, fathers, and life-long companions.

At the reception, we had too much fun. The food was great and the spirits flowed. Ally’s maid-of -honor speech was spot on. I love the people that Caitlin and Lucas surrounded themselves with…their friends are fun and lift them as a couple. Laurel and my friends were in full force. “Dancing” Kevin and “Reception” Matt never missed a dance. The BFM seemed to know every song from Caitlin and Lucas’ youth, because as you know we teach junior high and never missed a junior high dance. At the end of the night, there were sing-alongs that formed into circles of friends, family from all sides.

When Caitlin and I danced our “father-daughter” dance; my emotions were at skin-level. I could feel every hug from every age in my arms at that moment. Of course, Caitlin is so mean in her song choice that I felt every emotion from our 25 years together. Everything comes back; from buttoning up her pink “Daddy’s Little Girl” outfit to take her home for the first time, to her first words, her first steps, that curly hair, waiting for her to board the bus for kindergarten, coaching her for 10 years in softball, watching her graduate from high school and college, the joys and sorrows that a family has to go through together…everything punched into my heart at the same time. I could feel a sob percolate once in awhile, but the moment was perfect. She is my baby girl before, then, and forever.

I would recommend that all fathers and daughters be careful listening to this song. I would rate it a 10 on the Fassold Killing Dad Scale for dads with daughters.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge Lucas’ mom and dad. Bob and Claudette Grecco raised a wonderful son. In addition, we have become friends outside of our children.

Watching the limo take away the kids for a honeymoon altered somewhat because of Covid-19, but they would treasure the time together.

My heart is full. I will leave this section with the kids’ wedding video.

2020 We the People Regional and State Champions

My kids trying to kill me with kindness!

This year’s Weoples helped heal me. These kids have endured the harshest of environments to learn and compete. This is my seventh We the People team and this is the most challenging experience preparing a team that I have dealt with as a teacher. For one thing, we have never been in the same room together at the same time. My units have never met in person. Until Regionals and State there were students on my team that I never met in the flesh.

Despite all the challenges these kids dug into material and challenge. I was pretty confident going into Regionals and after State felt we had done really well. The kids were amazing and grew so much from Regionals to State. Tony and I were so proud of what they accomplished. This school year has been a challenge for Government teachers everywhere. Hardly a day goes by without one of my kids asking me, “Can Trump do that?” They have seen the evaporation of norms and see the power of the judiciary in protecting our fragile republic. Sadly, Federalist Papers 10 and 51 have come to life in front of their eyes, but not in a good way. It is if America forget the lessons from their founding fathers. The best thing about this past year has been Heather Cox Richardson (her blog Letter from an American is a must read) and Sarah Kendizor.

In many ways they are the deepest team I have ever coached. They are talented and balanced. They are also the funniest team that I have had. I never know what they will do from one day to the other. We laugh every day.

Of course, the hardest part was telling them that Nationals was also going to be held virtually. They like last year’s team deserved better.

Laurel and I

We have gone through so many things this year. Covid-19 has put us closer together. We walked through the spring and started playing cribbage nearly every day. We have been each other’s company all year. We have been together for over 30 years and face each phase together. I am happy on what we have accomplished. As of now, it looks like that I am the December Cribbage Champion. Some earlier months are in dispute and we should not live in the past….especially August and September…

Retirement

Well all good things must come to an end. My plan was to retire at the end of this school year….I turned 62 this month and I wanted to go out a little too early rather than a little too late. However, I cannot stand the idea of not having a normal year. So I am definitely teaching another year.

Ending on a laugh

I will leave you with one of the funniest moments of the year in our family. When Caitlin and Lucas tried the Paqui Carolina Reaper Madness One-Chip Challenge.

I wish all of you the very best for 2021. Stay healthy. Focus on the positive. Check in with people. Feel free to reach out.