Rabbit, run

I think that this is the only time in my life when my adherence to an exercise plan has been driven by the sense that I really, really need to get out and move my body or else I may crumble from stress.  Things are pretty ridiculous at school right now, but I feel–well, not calm, exactly, but much less reactive than I would normally expect to be.  And I credit three things: Stubb’s being home and not overly busy at the moment, and therefore able to be present for me and also to handle a lot of practical details around the house and with the Snork Maiden; writing 750-word Morning Pages nearly every day; and, six days out of the last seven, either running/walking two to three miles or doing a ridiculously simple bodyweight workout (I do this as a circuit all at once; it takes 25 minutes, including warm-up and three minutes of stretching).

I would characterize both the Morning Pages and the exercise as mild-to-moderate-intensity efforts that do a lot to skim the top layer off the stress and get me centered on what I need to do.  And oh, dear, there is quite a lot to do.  There’s the base layer of teaching and prepping and grading, which keeps getting more and more compressed as I hurry through it to get to everything else.  I feel like I’m totally shafting teaching, although paradoxically, the less I prep, the more present I am, and I’m reminded of the aphorism Dr. Tea repeats, “High school is where young people go to watch old people work hard.” I’ve been getting them to work more, which is good, I guess–and at this point in the year, there’s more reflection and returning to ideas from earlier in the year.  My regular juniors are starting Beloved, so this is a good time to slow down and ask a lot of questions, do the hard work of reading together in class.  And my seniors have the AP in a couple of weeks–they’re reading one more play, Athol Fugard’s “Master Harold”…and the boys, which for some of them may end up being a good text on which to write, and they’ll do some more test practice.

On that base layer, spread a thick layer of administrative responsibilities having to do with finishing up this year and getting on to the next one.  All the chairs are doing this stuff–honors and AP applications, book orders, scheduling, teacher assignments.  The guy we hired a couple of months ago just emailed me about next year.

And then a runny, drippy layer of hiring–messy, hard to contain: resumes, phone calls, setting up visits, listening to everyone’s thoughts, communicating with the higher-ups.  We definitely have two to hire, maybe a part-timer in our future as well.  Most departments are done with this, BUT NOT US!  Lucinda is definitely not coming back, and neither is the teacher who didn’t return his contract.  And neither of those things was certain until Friday.

And then–topping everything off–Dr. Tea needs to be away this week.  And maybe after that.  It’s one of those things where we don’t know if things will maybe be stable for a while, or not–if she will want to come back in, or not.  I know I don’t have the authority to say “Stay home and don’t worry about using up your sick days, your paycheck will keep coming,” even though I think this is almost certainly the case.  I know that I would be more than happy either to teach her classes for free or to donate my banked sick days to her (I think I have 20, which is the most you can bank–I just commented on Bardiac’s post “Teaching Sick” to this effect).  She’s only used up five or six on Mr. Tea’s illness, according to my records–I have been keeping track since we started officially covering her classes, and I think she’s only had four since we put regular in-house subs in place.  And I just checked and we only have about 25 more senior teaching days left in the school year (they have a couple of days devoted to non-class activities, plus there will be two AP weeks in which they’ll be randomly cycling in and out of class as they take APs).  I think what I need to do is put all this before the GGE and have him call her and say  “Stay home and don’t worry about using up your sick days, your paycheck will keep coming.”  He is among the many people who have offered to teach classes for her–he taught English for years before his administrative responsibilities became too heavy.

I really am happy to teach her classes.  They require no real additional prep, since I’m already teaching AP Lit, and the grading is not too bad, and I know all the kids and have taught most of them.  It’s even fun to spend time with a lot of them, even (or maybe especially) in their second-semester senior-hood.  The difficulty is that now I am teaching five classes and I could really use that extra time during the school day.  Monday, for example, I would normally have a stretch of free time from 9:45-1:00 (though other people teach in my classroom for half of that), and instead I’ll only be free from 11:30-1–and that time will probably get swallowed up pretty fast with candidate search stuff and other time-sensitive administrative work.  I’ll stay late on Monday to do literary-magazine stuff (another layer), upload some financial aid documents for the Snork Maiden, and grade.

There is an end, though.  For one thing, I’m going to be away Thursday and Friday–an absence planned a while ago–and though prepping sub materials adds to my workload, at least I know there’s a break in the near future.  Then, too, the school year is going to end and all of these things will eventually get resolved.  I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other, one word after the next.

Say anything

I just learned that one of the middle school teachers is going to be taking a new administrative role next year, which means that we have to hire someone to replace him as an English teacher.  This is good news for him, so I’m glad to hear it, but this means we still have to hire at least two people, which I hoped wouldn’t happen.  The GGE has forwarded me a whole heck of a lot of dossiers, which I’ve skimmed and made notes on, and I’m hoping to send him a shortlist tomorrow.

Meanwhile, there is another teacher who has not returned a contract, and I’m not sure yet what this means.  Perhaps we will get some clarity about it this week.  Meanwhile, I will keep busy with the hires we know we have to make.  And the placement process for next year–who gets into honors and AP–which is under my jurisdiction.  And the deployment situation–which continues to depend on hiring and also, to some extent, on that placement process (which determines how many sections we need of each class).  And the literary magazine layout (I have got to hand this over to someone else next year).  And grading, so that I don’t fall behind on that.  And, of course, teaching.

I remember Dr. Tea getting pretty stressed out over both deployment and placement, and maybe I will too the first time someone gets mad at me about one of those things, but so far I am finding them very interesting, albeit time-consuming.  I was at school a lot this weekend because of the Snork Maiden working on the musical and both of us doing lit-mag layout and me working in my room when I wasn’t actually seeing the musical.  But I did get a nice evening out with Stubb on Saturday when the Snork Maiden had the show followed by going out for a late-night meal with the cast and crew.  And I also got in one workout and one run and a little bit of lying around rereading Barbara Pym’s Less Than Angels, an old favorite.  So there’s hope of being able to go back in on Monday in a robust frame of mind.

Today’s stats

Most efficient: Planned one of my classes through the end of the year, taught a class, laid out my teacher deployment cards and tried to figure out if we absolutely have to hire another person (I think we should).

Saddest: Wrote a note to a senior girl whose father passed away suddenly.

Silliest: Watched a few innings of softball and listened to the girls’ dugout chatter–the nicknames they have for one another, the way they shout “I love you!” when their runner gets thrown out.

Most literary: Phone conversation with Elinor about teaching a text she hasn’t taught before, but which I have taught many times.  Also some catching up.  She has been a little bit in touch with Dr. Tea and wanted to find out how things are going with Mr. Tea (treatment, etc.).

Cutest: Petted baby hamsters (okay, this was actually yesterday, but it is cuter than anything that happened today).



Sheets to the wind

I must be making up for not posting for two weeks, but I can’t go to bed without telling the Internet that I bought a set of gray flannel sheets (just in time for the return of warm weather, of course) and they are so soft and cozy that I foresee it’s going to be really difficult to get up tomorrow morning and go to school.

And as long as I’m telling the Internet random personal things, I think I’m going to do a 5K run/walk at the beginning of May.  My idea is that I will train as if I were planning to run the whole thing, but maybe I will walk a bunch of it instead.  I haven’t been running lately, but I have been thinking about starting again.  I was enjoying it there for a while.

Want to hear another random personal thing?  I finally get to go to a softball game on Tuesday.  The team has been playing away games since the beginning of the season–some quirk of scheduling–and I haven’t seen them play yet this year, even though I think I’ve taught all the juniors and seniors on the team and know most of the freshmen and sophomores.  The girls’ softball field is on campus (we don’t have room for a baseball field too, so the boys’ home field is at a school that is conveniently located in my neighborhood).

Thanks for listening, goodnight.

And also

I forgot to mention that I am gamely steeling myself for the department chair tasks that occur, or continue to develop, in the spring–staffing the courses, arranging people’s workloads, processing honors and AP applications, and so forth.  This week is the deadline for returning our contracts, so I’m expecting to have more clarity about who will actually be on staff next year and if anyone is going up or down in workload.  This isn’t usually such a big factor, but with Lucinda and Viola wavering about returning, we have been in a wait-and-see situation.  It’s also possible that someone will spring a big surprise on us.  I hope not, though.  As it is, I’m pretty sure we have to hire someone else.  I hope we don’t have to hire two.

Future shock

I’ve used this title a few times, the first of which is here–fun for me to see how much my life has changed!  This was just a few months before I started teaching at Starfleet Academy.  Anyway, I’m going to use it again.  (What are you going to do about it?)

I spent two and a half hours at SA on Saturday while the Snork Maiden did tech for the spring musical, just getting myself in order for the beginning of the week.  I actually still have some prep to do, but I am probably calmer than I would have been otherwise.  I think I’ve mentioned before that I have a friend who teaches at a school which schedules professional days for the faculty on what would otherwise have been the first day back from break–so the faculty return on Monday and the kids on Tuesday.  I still think this is genius and that I should bring it up to the calendar committee.  I dream that if we could split the day between some kind of organized professional activity and time in our classrooms to prepare for going back, we could go back in the perfect, serene state of mind.

As it is, we have to find our own ways of confronting the fact that when we go back, there are only SEVEN WEEKS left in the school year.  I know that on the quarter system, seven weeks is still most of the quarter, and on the semester system, it’s almost half the quarter–but in high school, when you’ve had most students all year long, it feels like very little indeed.  (If you’re a teacher, that is–probably to some of the students it seems like an eternity.)  And we know from experience that these seven weeks go crazy fast.  Teaching juniors and seniors, I know that two weeks will be riddled with AP tests and students disappearing from class for morning and afternoon exams.  Two or three days will also involve no seniors on campus–oh my gosh, I just realized right this minute that Friday is one of them and that my assignment sheet does not reflect this.  (Sigh.  Groan.  Secret thrill of delight.)  And after the AP test, I don’t know what on earth I will see from the seniors.

Speaking of whom, I guess they’ve all heard from colleges now (the last decisions came in over break).  I do hope that the ones I wrote for will come and tell me how it all turned out.  And there’s yet another reason why seniors will be missing from time to time: college visits, so that they can make their decisions by the national reply date of May 1.

And finally, a delicious task for me: summer planning.  Did I tell you I didn’t get the Thing again this year?  Never mind, I am kind of relieved.  I would have liked the validation but actually doing it would have been a bit of a pain, and it would have involved being away for a big chunk of the summer and I started feeling a little uneasy about that idea when the Mr. Tea situation happened.  So: no Thing.  But other things!


Spring break, oh my sweet lord, spring break.

In the six years I taught there, NLNRU’s spring break never overlapped with SA’s, which was helpful in a way, because I had three weeks in the spring when I wasn’t going full bore at both schools, but it also meant that I never had a complete break.  Now I have one.  It’s awesome.  SA has two weeks, which is even more awesome.

I have written; exercised; done a good deal of tidying up, both as part of the Snork Maiden’s room project and of my own stuff: recycling old papers, throwing away junk, donating a big bag of books to the library’s used bookstore.  (And those were just the really obvious ones.  I could easily give away a hundred books, and probably should.  Maybe that would be a good project for some Saturday.)  I have gotten some stuff together for the taxes.  The Snork Maiden and I had lunch with Ben, who is home for spring break, and in a good mood, and really settled into college and enjoying it.  (Which reminds me that I had a really nice impromptu conversation with Ed right before break also.  He never did just drop in, but when I’ve subbed for Dr. Tea he has usually stayed behind to chat for a minute after class.  And she and I were watching a volleyball game after school on Thursday–which was so much fun to do with her, by the way–and Ed climbed up in the bleachers to sit with us and talk.  He seemed so relaxed and happy, particularly compared to when I first met him at the beginning of junior year.  He’s going to spend some time in a physics lab over break, and he’s almost certain he’s going to go to that university where I once worked for college.  I guess he still has a few decisions to wait for.)

The Snork Maiden and I are going away for a week with my mom on Tuesday, so I have to get ready for that.  I’m going to school tomorrow for a couple of hours to tie up several loose ends from last week–I left campus in a hurry on Friday to get a haircut (oh yeah, I got a haircut).  I have to hit the pharmacy, drop some things off at the food pantry (I bought four boxes of Girl Scout cookies expressly for the food pantry, and I’ve had these jars of peanut butter sitting in a bag waiting to go for something like two months), do one more load of laundry, and, of course, pack.

I’m a bit fussed about all the lists, and a bit anxious about the traveling, and all that.  But also:  I am on spring break!  And I am really happy about that.


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