Oh hai. I’m still here. Like my friend What Now?, I’m thinking it might be good to get back to blogging more; I could use the reflection time, since politics have me…reacting a lot.. Unlike WN?, however, I’m not on break yet. Two more weeks to go. And an exciting but inconvenient three-day professional-development-related absence right in the middle of those two weeks–so I’m spending quite a bit of this bleary Sunday after the Daylight Savings “spring forward” planning the next several days of grading, prepping, and sub plans.
Before I knew about the absence, I signed up to chaperone a concert right before it, which now seems fairly inconvenient but not quite worth trying to find someone to swap with. So a fairly demanding week is going to end at about 9:30 PM on Friday, several hours too late, if you ask me.
Things in my small world are basically holding steady. One small mercy seems to be that we might not need to hire this year, which, if true, probably gives me 30+ hours back this spring as compared to my previous springs as chair. However, not needing to hire is predicated on the expectation that both of our colleagues on maternity leave–Dorothea, who had a baby in January, and Romola, who had one last week (a while in the making, not quite on the timeline she anticipated when I first mentioned the possibility)–return to school full-time in August. Each says that’s her plan, but would we be shocked if a baby changed someone’s plans? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time.
Just to catch you up, at some point during my long blog absences this fall, I signed a contract to publish my second book of poems! It will be out in September. Those of you who’ve been reading for a while know that I’ve been working on this book all along, and I’ve been sending it out in its current form for about two years, with a few encouraging near-successes and far more generic rejections.
Now we can move on to my telling you about working on the third book (which has been underway since 2013) and, eventually, I hope, into the attempts to get that one into print.
One more day of break–we go back on Tuesday. I am pleased to say that I have managed to recapture the vacation feeling somewhat, deciding that I’m going to be busy anyway when we go back, so I might as well enjoy the time I have now. I wrote today and also finished one of my vacation books (the excellent Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica, by Sara Wheeler). I’ve also decided to plan some specific treats to look forward to outside of work, like yoga class on Tuesday night and watching Sherlock with the Snork Maiden on Wednesday (and maybe something a little more exciting than either of those?). I do tend to let the work week dominate and to make the rest of my week serve that, but why should I? I know what a pleasure it is to look forward to something after work, and how much it will help, going back. Meanwhile, I will do some prep Monday, but I am also having friends over for brunch and going to a museum. (Avaunt ye, end-of-vacation blues!)
I wonder how many of my posts here have been about school breaks. Lots, I’m sure. During breaks I have more time for blogging and reflection, plus I remain obsessed with time and how to use it.
I have issues with winter break and spring break. I generally have grandiose plans and they are never fulfilled as my fantasies specify.
This winter break, we stayed close to home (well, except Stubb, who’s just left for an out-of-town gig). The Snork Maiden dogsat. I didn’t read as much as I expected to, but I did read some. I have been to seven yoga classes so far, an average of one every other day. One museum. A few holiday parties, including an open house we held, and Hanukkah at my mom’s tonight. Haircuts for the Snork Maiden and me.
The grandiose plans this time were mostly focused on “catching up” on school stuff, but “catching up” is a misleading phrase–it would be okay if it were just about the few piles of small assignments I didn’t get around to grading before the break, but in my imagination all sorts of things get attached that can’t actually be acted on when school isn’t in session–conversations, meetings, emails that I meant to have or do or send. I should recognize that with the way my job is currently constituted, I’m unlikely to ever feel completely “caught up”–there’s always something else I could be thinking about. It’s one of the few things I miss about adjuncting–the sense of being done and off the clock at the end of a term. (Even then, of course, there was a new term to be planned for–but in my memory my 2YC classes seem to have just repeated each quarter, with less new prep than there actually was.)
Anyway, today I am digging into some of that stuff so that I can bring my anxiety level down–for some reason it peaked in the predawn hours and I found myself lying awake fretting about some very small potatoes indeed.
One theme of the school year so far–and perhaps this is part of why I’ve been absent–is the Snork Maiden’s senior year, which I am finding profoundly moving. All the senior rituals and experiences, but now she’s among the students having them. Driving to school with her and being sharply aware that next year she won’t be in the car. (I was going to write “next year I’ll be driving alone,” but actually it’s fairly likely that I’ll carpool with someone once my schedule no longer has to accommodate hers.)
And, of course, the college process. It has gone pretty smoothly so far. The key factor for her has been that she has a pretty specific idea of the area she wants to work in, and that’s done a lot to shape her search. She visited a few schools that seemed like great places, just not right for her, and that helped her keep perspective about how it’s a decision on both sides, not just them judging you. The places she’s applying to are places that she’s enthusiastic about. The SA counselors encourage students who are ready to do one or more early applications, and there are a lot of schools that offer non-binding early answers, so she applied to the school she thinks is her top pick and also to another one she is interested in, and got in to both. The second one offered her a merit scholarship; she’ll learn more about financial aid for both of them in January, and she’s planning to go to an admitted students event for Top Pick in February.
It’s been interesting to see the process from the parent side. I didn’t know about the official and unofficial Facebook groups that spring up for admitted students–the Snork Maiden joined the official one and one for admitted students in her specific major, which will be maybe 40-50 first-years after regular admissions is complete. Right now it’s about 20 students and they’re already bonding and sharing information. She already feels very committed to the school. I’m conflicted: the school does seem like a good fit for her, but I’d like her to keep an open mind about the others she hasn’t heard from yet, and the question of aid is also very much in play.
One thing I do support is her going to the admitted students event, even though I know it will exert a lot of recruiting pressure and she will likely come home even more sold on the place than before (well played, Top Pick, to have it before the regular decisions come in). Top Pick is in a cold place, and she should know what February feels like there.
Returning to the blog to write, as Hemingway recommended, “one true sentence”:
This fall, I am not writing any college recommendations, and I am so glad.
It’s not that I suddenly feel I have loads of free time, of course. But I do remember that at about this time last year, I was spending at least one day every weekend writing college recs–and a significant number of prep periods, lunches and after-school hours. And this year I’m not.
It’s because I didn’t teach juniors last year. I’m not teaching juniors this year, either; for the second year in a row, I have 10th and 12th grade. So next year’s seniors will be students I had as sophomores, and a few of them might ask me to write for them if I also have them as seniors–but it won’t be an onerous number.
Juniors are very rewarding to teach, and I like the AP Lang class–in many ways I think it’s the class I’ve taught best at SA–but it’s also very nice not to be spending October weekends writing letters. (The last two years, the additional hours of sitting really did seem to contribute to flare-ups of the hip problem, as well.)
And for now I suppose it’s the blog. I do miss it.
School has restarted and much is going well. Our new hire is, by all indications so far, excellent. The not-so-new-anymore leadership, in the second year, is making some bolder changes, of which I approve. Looking around, I see that change can be hard, but, as the new Head said recently, we ask the students to take risks, make changes, and grow, and those things aren’t optional for us, either.
I’ve made a commitment to myself to spend half a day each weekend writing. I managed it last weekend, before school began; I think I’m going to manage it this Saturday even though I have to go out of town Sunday and Monday.
Family health issue still going on, an intermittent and unpredictable drain on energy. When that’s resolved, maybe I’ll get back to blogging.