Three cups of tea

I walked into the faculty workroom earlier this week and New Spanish Teacher was drinking coffee out of MY mug.  We don’t have communal dishes, people.  I have my very own mug that I use every day; it’s a souvenir from this exhibition. Before I got it, I used a mug from the NLNRU book fair.  I didn’t say anything.

Later, I saw that he had washed it and left it in the dish drainer.

The next morning, I saw him drinking out of the History of Art mug that belongs to the history teacher mentioned in this post. And the same afternoon, I heard him mention to another teacher that he had used somebody’s mug by accident.  I have a feeling the history teacher said something.  So now I don’t have to.  (He hasn’t used my mug since–or anyone else’s that I know of.)

Which is good, because I’ve been busy making myself unpopular by pointing out lapses of communication to our communication people.  Since I started on the new committee, I seem to see lapses of communication everywhere at SA.  Internal and external.  It’s a problem.  I realize it’s not my problem, at least not in the sense of being able to fix it.  However, I am a school parent as well as a staff member, so I can see when the school isn’t informing parents about an event they probably should be informing parents about.  An event they want parents to attend!  But no one is going to attend if they don’t know it’s happening, or if they don’t know until a few days before the event.

The IT problem, such as it is, is a communication problem too, but things seem to have settled a lot now that all the new people and new devices are up and running.  Still, though. It’s more complicated than I would have realized to ensure that people are informed of the things of which they ought to be informed.

You might point out that I can’t criticize, considering that I couldn’t even tell an individual colleague not to drink out of my mug.  However, I might counter that my message got across just fine.  I waited not twenty-four hours and someone else delivered it for me.

Wash and dry

Saturday night is laundry night.  Okay, not always.  Tonight it’s half-the-laundry night.

I have plenty of work to do, but I took today off from schoolwork.  I worked out, got an oil change, ferried the Snork Maiden and a few friends to a social event, and was fairly aimless while they were being social–I had lunch, went to the drugstore, wrote a note to a friend, made a couple of phone calls.  I was in a relatively unfamiliar neighborhood and hadn’t bothered to figure out whether there was anything really interesting I wanted to do there.  I had figured out that there was a library branch close by, but I didn’t end up going there to work (or read).  I went to our local branch later in the day, though, because I had holds to pick up.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned that I haven’t been running or, indeed, doing any regular exercise since about early August because I’d strained something in my rear or hip (it was hard to tell where the pain was originating).  Some days it was just a twinge, some days it was so painful that I had trouble sleeping.  Finally took myself to the doctor and got a fancy-sounding diagnosis, a week of anti-inflammatory meds, and instructions on stretching.  It’s much better now, and I am starting to exercise again, gently.  I’m excited to be getting the mood boost of exercise again.  I’m planning to take a walk and run a little on Sunday.  Have to be careful here, because if I overdo it, my butt will let me know.

Across the water

Last spring, one of our 2014 grads was admitted off the waitlist to his first-choice college, but for January, not for September. January admission is one of many features of the current college-admissions scene that I don’t remember existing back in the eighties when I applied to college.  Anyway, he chose not to focus on being one of the school’s last choices (which I might have had trouble getting past, personally, even knowing how competitive college admissions are and having screened applications for other stuff where you know the line you draw is fairly arbitrary; there’s not likely to be a huge difference between the bottom of the admitted pile and the top of the waitlist, especially when you’re admitting hundreds of people at a time), accepted his place for January, and headed off to do a little low-budget traveling.

He’s on a farmstay in China now and has been blogging about it.  I’m really enjoying his posts, and I’ve been trying to comment regularly.  Although I wince at the occasional error, his posts are generally quite clearly written, with confidence and flair; they reflect well on his education in English.  They also reflect well on his ability to cope with unfamiliar situations.  The accommodations look pretty spartan, and there have been mentions of vermin in the bathroom and so on.  The pictures of the surrounding country are beautiful, though.

I’m thinking that this is one way to measure the success of one’s high school education.  Can you plan a trip to the other side of the planet? (Yes, I know that his parents paid for the ticket.)  Can you communicate with the people you meet there?  Eat the unfamiliar food, make yourself comfortable in simple surroundings?  Work and not complain?  (Urinate next to a giant spider? There wasn’t a class for that one in high school.) And can you write about it in a way that people will want to read?

Night shift

So I’m on this committee that is charged with making certain recommendations that will affect the future of the school.  Sorry to be so vague, but you know.  In no particular order, here are some of the observations I have made so far:

  1. I’m honored to be on this committee, proud to have been chosen for it.  As soon as I heard about it, I thought, “They should put me on that,” and it was a happy surprise when they actually did.  Or not a total surprise, because I did think I should be on it, not just that I would like to.  But great.
  2. It takes a lot of time.  And it doesn’t even have to take that much time to feel like a lot of time.  Of late, it’s been three to six hours a week of meetings, plus another couple of hours communicating and planning.  That doesn’t sound like much to me, but it’s got to come from somewhere.
  3. It’s a really good committee.  People bring different perspectives–faculty, staff, alumni, trustees–and they are good at listening to one another.
  4. At the same time, we have what are to me surprisingly large areas of agreement about what matters, though not necessarily about the exact order of priorities.
  5. Except for a young alum, everyone on the committee is, in addition to other roles, a parent of one or more current or past SA students, which gives a sense about how much parents’ views are being considered. (There’s just one person who is there as “a parent”–someone who has had a leadership role in the parents’ association.)
  6. I’m getting to know better some people I had previously known just in passing, including the parents of some past students and an elementary-grades teacher I didn’t know at all (although I knew this teacher’s children by sight when they were SA students).
  7. Big chunks of what we are doing are confidential, because we’re talking to people who are willing to talk with us only because we promise confidentiality.  This is difficult sometimes, because I have not only thoughts but also feelings about these conversations.  This is partly why #6 is happening.  Aside from the sheer volume of contact, there’s definitely some bonding going on.
  8. Because of #7, there are going to be situations in which we’re not going to be able to explain the committee’s decisions to the community without violating confidentiality.  So we won’t be able to explain some things.  I know I’m not going to enjoy this, but I’ll be able to deal with it.
  9. In some important parts, though, we will able to be pretty direct. People will be giving us feedback, too. I’m looking forward to that.  (I think.)

Frames 2

New Spanish Teacher thanked me for getting Coach to contact him, which was gracious, but he also mumbled something about being busy and not finding time to respond.  I wonder if he has done it yet.

Coach will probably follow up with the student regardless, but it seems to me it would be better if the two adults had a conversation about the kid first.  However, I’m clear that I’ve butted in to the maximum allowable extent, given that nobody seems to be in danger or anything.

But it makes me think about how much I rely on the other adults at school to help me figure out the kids–and how much of my happiness in the school has to do with having good working relationships with everyone with whom I can possibly manage to have a good working relationship.

The kids are SO GREAT, and being with them is an absolute tonic to the soul–most of the time.  They are idealistic, kind, funny.  They look at things with fresh eyes; helping them discover something new is not that unlike watching a baby eat blueberries or feel rain for the first time. Positive adult attention means so much to most of them, no matter how much positive adult attention they get at home.  I see this with the Snork Maiden: some of the high points of her year are the times when an unrelated adult entrusts her with a responsibility, or helps her acquire a new skill, or responds with genuine emotion to something she’s done.  (And I see over and over that different kids “click” with different teachers.  This is her second year with Teacher Z and also with Natasha, who switched from biology to chemistry–but the person whose desk she hangs around is Sebastian, her freshman English teacher, who was new last year–I haven’t written about him except in passing).

So, teenagers are great to spend time with, and goodness knows there are plenty of them, and it seems as though there are teachers who get all their school-related social-emotional needs met through contact with their students.  Which is not necessarily a creepy thing, as long as their more adult social-emotional needs are met elsewhere; for example, you shouldn’t be telling students about your dating problems, obviously.

It goes without saying that there’s always more work to do; if you’re prepared for the next class, you can prepare for the next day; if you’re prepared for the next day, you can prepare for the next week; if you’re prepared for the foreseeable future, you can do more long-range planning.  And there are always students who need more than the standard amount of attention, whatever that is.

And yet. I would say that it’s never a waste of time to get to know your colleagues.  Not just in your department, not just at your grade level; not just other teachers, but any and every staff member.  And maybe especially coaches, because they have so much direct contact with kids.

I hope New Spanish Teacher makes the call.  Or better yet, drops down to the sports office for a chat.


Sometimes I find myself–let’s be frank–butting into someone else’s business.  Not always such a good idea.

Sometimes I decide that something is my problem just because I might be able to solve it.  Also not always such a good idea.

But sometimes I’m not butting in, or borrowing trouble, but practicing work altruism.  I like this concept.  We do spend a fair amount of time at work helping one another out, and I love that it’s an environment in which you can ask for help and people are motivated to give it.

Today I butted in a little bit–a new Spanish teacher had been lamenting that he was having a lot of trouble with a rambunctious junior basketball player.  I said, “Oh, you should talk with Orsino, because he’s had some success with that student.”  And Romola–who played basketball in college–said, “I respectfully disagree!  You should talk with his coach.  Coach will make sure he behaves.”

But Spanish Teacher is new and to him Coach is just one in a sea of unfamiliar faces.  He also comes from a school with a different culture, one that I suspect might be more adversarial between coaches and teachers.  (Not that we don’t have our conflicts.  But there’s also a lot of respect.)  So it didn’t seem like he was going to pick up the phone right away.

And toward the end of the day, I happened to be leaving the building right around the end of basketball practice, and on an impulse I reversed direction and went by the sports office. Had a quick chat with Coach, who was very responsive.  He wanted to talk with the student right away; I asked him to talk with the teacher so that the two of them could have that personal contact.  I said it was OK if he told the teacher that I mentioned suggesting they talk…and I also followed up by emailing the teacher to say I hope he didn’t mind my speaking with Coach.

I don’t absolutely love the dynamic of Coach-as-enforcer, but I don’t mind that this male role model communicates to the boys what behavior he expects of them.  I hope the Spanish Teacher-Coach encounter is a positive one.

The hours

Oh, Sunday night.  This isn’t an especially angsty one, but it’s still not my favorite time.  Nice, though, to reflect that it’s been a good weekend, with some fun, some down time, and some good work.

I mentioned that I brought my second book manuscript to the writers’ group earlier this month and got a very helpful response.  I have managed to carve out some time to revise–again: I completed a draft in 2011, and at various times I’ve thought I was finished; I sent it out many times in 2013, and just a few times in 2014, feeling that something needed my attention.  Now I have the feeling that this thing really is done.  At least I’m ready to get serious about sending it out again.  This weekend I picked four of the upcoming book contest deadlines and submitted it.  I also did some planning for upcoming contests and open reading periods.

This week, I’m going to get two batches of unpublished poems back out there.  Not every unpublished poem in the book works on its own, but there are some that should have magazine publication before the book comes out.  And this should be the year that the book gets taken!

And then I’m going to find some time–maybe next weekend–to look at the handful of finished poems and sheaves of drafts I have for the next book.


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