Twice in one day, sightings of a new-to-me usage: “nope on out of there,” with “nope” used as a verb meaning “leave a situation” with a strong connotation of refusing to engage with someone’s nonsense. I like it. It reminds me of the octopus gif: 

And in just the last couple of days, I’ve noticed an uptick in my ability to say NOPE to things that I don’t want to do, don’t have to do, and wouldn’t fully enjoy–or things that I might like just fine, but I know they will crowd the week too much.  Unfortunately, this week that means I won’t go to writers’ group (it meets only every three weeks, which seems to be just about the right interval), and this week that also means that some school events are crowding out possible social events, but it is what it is.  I can’t go to the Tuesday/Thursday yoga class either night because of school stuff that I can’t say no to, so it’s not like I have total dominion over my own time, but saying no to a couple of events is making me feel calmer, more in control.


Letters to the lost

Random bullet time!

  • I’m now up to 12 letters.  I hope this will be it. The students are given October 1 as their deadline to ask, though, so it’s possible I’ll get more requests.  There’s a history teacher who has 20 to write–I feel for him, especially having done that in 2013.
  • So I need to write about 3 a week for the next 4 weeks.  (I don’t know whether I’ll get PSAT Day off this year. I won’t be proctoring the PSAT because the Snork Maiden will be taking it, so I’m not supposed to have anything at all to do with the test. I’ll probably be asked to chaperone the ninth-graders’ first aid/CPR training. It’s likely I’ll have at least half a day unscheduled, though, so I can probably count on getting three done that day.)
  • I’m really enjoying my two classes of sophomores. We’re getting started on the Canterbury Tales this week. I do have to comment on their summer reading essay drafts for Monday and figure out a revision schedule–my plan is to have them work on the essay at home while we slowly explore Chaucer in class together.  When I subbed for Viola a couple of years ago, it seemed as though they didn’t get much out of reading the Tales at home (either they didn’t read, or didn’t really understand what they read), so I’m going to try reading aloud with them in class.
  • Teaching a new prep is time-consuming, though.  I didn’t have a new prep last year, which was kind of nice!
  • Teaching a new prep is also fun.  Lots of surprises.
  • Teaching a new prep is also somewhat frustrating, in that the freshness of the new is always balanced against what you’ll do better when you’re not doing it for the first time.

Numbers, mid-September

Number of classes: 5 (one is a one-semester overload)

Largest class: 17

Smallest: 11 (that’s the overload)

Average: 14 (well, 13.6, but while I may have some students who only give 60%, those tend to cause more work, not less.  Still, a very civilized average)

Total students this semester: 68

Second semester: 57 (unless I have to pick up something else for some reason)

College recommendations to write by October 19* (so far): 10

Recommendations begun: 1

Recommendations finished: 0

New faculty to mentor/observe/meet with: 1 (last year was 3; the year before that, 2)

AP essays to grade: 22 (should be 26, but 4 were absent)

Short essays to critique: 7

Sophomore short exercises to check: 17

*Kind of a fake deadline, because very few colleges have even an early deadline before November 1, but also not fake because you don’t want to be the one thing holding up the submission of the file through Naviance.

The lone pilgrim

I don’t think I have ever directly refused to write a recommendation for a student.  Now, though, I have been asked for one by a student whom I don’t think I can recommend.  I’ve written for some very weak students and been able to squeeze out some appreciation for their hard work or the courage it took to speak up in class once in a while or their growth from point a to point b, even if that wasn’t a very great distance.  But about this student I have nothing to say.  He did most of the work and turned most of it in on time, although I had to chase him down for some of it.  Much of the time it was just the minimum necessary to fulfill the assignment’s requirements.  He rarely (maybe never) contributed to discussion unless I explicitly invited his comment, and tended to demur when I did, or give terse, unhelpful responses.  He almost never responded to another student’s idea.  At the same time, he was weirdly arrogant about his writing and his ideas, and would argue with me about my comments on his drafts.

Why is he even asking me? I always treated him kindly, but I was also clear with him about what he needed to do to improve as a writer, and he didn’t do it, and he didn’t take my class particularly seriously.

He was kind of sneaky about the ask, too, emailing me as though he had already asked, instead of hearing me tell another student to bring the appropriate form (“You told us we needed to bring X form; can I bring it tomorrow?”).

I don’t think he would be asking me if he thought he had a better choice, so I’m guessing that he doesn’t have one.  Which is sad.


Terrible dreams last night.  In one, Stubb had been diagnosed with leukemia, and I felt helpless and panicked and out of time.  This dream was mostly about my feelings, which is why it seems as though it might be a teaching dream–about the anxiety of not knowing what to do and feeling that whatever one does, something terrible will happen.

Well, that and the fact that it happened two nights before the first day of school.

In the other, I was on the last day of a visit to Hometown, and I realized I’d forgotten to visit my grandmother.  (In real life, she died in 2009.) I was trying to figure out how to see her and also do the other things that mattered to me, wondering if I could also stop by on the way to the airport the next day, thereby having two visits.  I was also horrified at myself for forgetting, but unwilling to give up any of the other plans I’d made.

This could easily be a dream about teaching and administration.  Or it could simply be the residue of having spent quite a lot of minutes this weekend trying to figure out how to use the weekend well.  I split yesterday among course prep (reread 1984), errands (restocking the fridge and pantry, laundry), yoga, and conferring with N. (my mom’s friend, who is extremely handy, retired, and always up for a project) about a broken faucet.  (He went to Home Depot to buy a new assembly and ended up coming back with a more plumbing-oriented handyman he’d met there, who installed it for $70.  A good use of $70–N. could certainly have done it, but he wouldn’t have done it as fast, and he’d have had to buy supplies that this man had in his truck.)

Today, Sunday, the big thing is going in to campus to finish prepping the things there that didn’t get done during the week of meetings and interruptions.  I tried to figure out how to go to yoga and to Costco before going to campus, but the hours of both put me on campus too late for my own comfort, so I’m going to school first, then my mom’s to pay N. for the faucet, then Costco, maybe to my in-laws’ for a quick visit (should also call to see if they need anything from Costco), and yoga tomorrow night.

Here’s to peaceful dreams tonight!

New leaf

Feeling better.  Stubb and I have tentative plans for a weekend getaway in a few weeks.  And my brain has been taken over by the excitement of going back to school.

I have never had so many meetings in one week!  Fortunately, they were generally worthwhile, and some of them were excellent, with actual decisions being made and positive actions being taken.  The new AHS doesn’t say a lot, but what he says is very much to the point.  The new Head of School is more voluble–no surprise there–but he is also pretty concise and extremely thoughtful.  They both seem to be making tremendous efforts to meet people and to understand the institution they’re now steering.  I invited them both to come to the English department meeting, and they did!  So now they can recognize the members of our department and they’ve gotten a sense of what kinds of things we are working on, individually and departmentally.

Dinah and I are on a faculty committee to advise the new HS on the transition–that was one of the better meetings this week.  I think we all agreed that it feels good so far.  We did raise a couple of the most prominent grumbles of the moment, which seem to us to be symptomatic of our ongoing challenges with internal communication.  So it’s not that everything is perfect, but that the right notes have been struck, both to reassure and to infuse with enthusiasm.  While there is definitely a sense that the leadership has changed, that leadership seems congruent with the direction in which the institution has been trying to move anyway.

This week of meetings is actually challenging in a way I don’t think I’ve noticed before.  It’s important and fun to spend time with adults and have lunch together and organize our classrooms and make plans for the year ahead, but it’s also a week in which we are not performing our core function of teaching–and are maybe suffering from opening-night jitters–and it’s therefore a week in which many of us are easily unsettled.  Within my department, I fielded a few overreactions–at least that’s how they seemed to me–and I am greatly looking forward to everyone getting busy with the main business of our jobs this week.



The getaway

My niece (who is 8, born the summer I started this blog) is spending the night tonight and going to a family yoga class with me in the morning.  Stubb and the Snork Maiden are away.  Niece is asleep and I’m scrolling through Facebook and seeing, among the political posts and the funny ones, quite a few pictures of people’s late-summer vacations and last-chance weekends away.  I’m finding myself suddenly sharply envious of the ones who are spending a week settled down somewhere with relatively little to do–a cabin in the woods, a condo at the beach, even an over-the-top luxury resort (there are two in my feed right now–one in Hawaii and one somewhere in southern California).

And, embarrassingly but undeniably, I’m feeling petulant about not going anywhere for something vacationlike this summer.  I was away for my usual conference, and there are many pleasures associated with that, but unscheduled downtime is not one of them.  I had planned a trip in July to stay in a rustic little AirBnB cabin for almost a week, having solo time to write but also visiting with a friend teaching at a nearby low-residency and another friend in a city two hours away.  But I ended up cancelling it because of issues with my mom’s and Stubb’s dad’s health.  That was the right decision, but because of the way I’d planned the summer, there wasn’t another chunk of time to devote to something similar–and the residency week was over, so it would have had to have been somewhere else.  (I also lost the AirBnB money–the place had a fairly strict cancellation policy, which makes me a little more wary of AirBnB in the future. Got the plane fare back, though, because I bought trip insurance, which I rarely do.) Also, I’m not sure even now that I’d feel really okay about going anywhere, since Stubb is away for work, and while my mom is fine now, his parents are still having a somewhat rocky time.

I really am excited about going back to school, but at the same time, I really wish I had had a bona fide vacation trip.  (I have also recently read several articles about the importance of taking vacations and recharging in general.  Maybe I should just get off the New York Times and Facebook.)  I just spent a little time looking at the possibility of a weekend away, either right before school starts, or on one of the first weekends of September.  I remember enjoying a quick getaway with the Snork Maiden in 2009 and feeling refreshed by it even though it was quite short.

I feel a little sheepish complaining about this–I know I get more trips than a lot of people–but what is this blog space for, if I can’t complain about stuff that bugs me?  Also, the subject of how to take care of myself is not a trivial one. I work hard and I show up for other people–Stubb, the Snork Maiden, relatives and friends–when they need me.

There have been good parts to this summer: lots of reading.  A decent amount of writing–and a very supportive and enthusiastic response from my writing group to the section I gave them in July. Leisurely time with friends. Even some nice close moments during the various health crises–it’s good to be able to be there for people when they need you.  Some lovely Snork Maiden time (not much with Stubb, though–he’s been away a lot).  Continuing to develop a yoga practice.  So I know I’ve benefitted from the time away from school and will come back at least somewhat restored.  Planning a little break will probably give me an additional boost–and in the meantime, staying off Facebook is not a bad idea.


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