Archive for November, 2012

The doctor’s dilemma

Remember Ph.D. Guy?  I am happy to say that the GGE offered him, and he accepted, a position for next year.  We’re all very pleased.  The official offer is for a combined English and social studies position, but I expect that he will end up teaching most of his courses in English.

I should probably write and congratulate him and say how excited we are to have him as a colleague.  I’m not absolutely sure of the etiquette around this (there’s usually pretty minimal contact right after someone is hired, and this is very early in the year for someone to be hired, anyway), but can’t hurt, right?  I am also wondering about the etiquette of inviting him to sit in on some classes during the rest of the year.  Having made the transition to high-school teaching, I know how much it can help to watch other teachers in action–and he’s got a much more flexible schedule now than he will have in the fall.

The human factor

Realizing that conditions have changed around here since Stubb’s last really significant absence, in 2009.  (Yes, he was away for September and October of this year, but he was less than three hours away and came home pretty much every week, or we went to see him.)  The big difference is that the Snork Maiden was nine and a half then and she’s thirteen now.  Living alone with an eighth grader is different from living alone with a fourth grader.  She so clearly has her own priorities and schedule–it’s much more likely that she wakes up in the morning and asks herself, “What will I do today?” rather than that she asks me, “Mom, what are we doing today?”  I still impose some of the schedule on her–you have to wash your hair today, please sort the laundry, we’re leaving at 1–but she wants to manage most of it herself.  And there’s pushback–for example, she is allowed to use the stove and oven when I am out, but yesterday I told her I didn’t want her to cook soup while I was at the community service event (I mean cooking a batch of soup, not heating up a can), and she argued with me–“I’m not going to spill boiling water on myself!”–and eventually capitulated in a huff.

Yes, it’s different.  It’s easier in some ways, but more challenging, of course, in others.  She has a lot of socializing going on Saturday, which will give us a break from each other, and then on Sunday we are both looking forward to hanging out with FLS for a few hours.  I have definitely lost the manic urge to get a whole bunch of stuff done over the Thanksgiving break, and I think part of it is that we’re both still adjusting to Stubb’s being away.

Another thing that has changed since 2009 is that now we all have laptops with cameras, and we can all Skype, so we’ve been doing that.  It’s not the same as being there, but it’s a great tool.

Naked mole rat gets dressed

I just woke up from an alarmingly specific dream in which an assortment of my SA students and colleagues all earnestly explained to me something they called the “highlighter method” of annotating texts.  In the dream, this was something they taught in SA’s middle school, and it went like this: everything that’s just expository information was highlighted in yellow (like sunshine); all the concrete sensory details went in blue (like ice); and then everything else was highlighted in the remaining colors (orange, pink, purple, green–whatever the student had, and according to the student’s preference) to show “emotion.”  It was a terrific system, they all assured me!  Every single word was highlighted!  A reassuring system that anyone could use, but with room for individual choice!

I hate waking up spluttering.  Also, I woke up at five-thirty because I’m used to it.

I also had to laugh, though, because this dream was so clearly a reaction to some conversations I had with the GGE and Dr. Tea on Tuesday–not about annotating, but about taking on a new role at SA that would allow me (if salary negotiations work out) to stop working at NLNRU.  I think this is what I want…that’s a whole other post.   I thought my concerns were about what I’d be giving up at NLNRU (money, connections, prestige, and the increased opportunities that come with all three), but apparently my subconscious is aware of the flip side of that–what I’d be confined to at SA, what might frustrate me if my only institution were SA and I had no outlet for higher-level teaching and I was responsible for deciding whether we should all teach annotation in a particular way (or some such thing).

Clearly this is something I have to continue to think about.  Nothing is settled yet.

And by the way, I’m actually quite interested in how to teach annotation–or, rather, how to get high schoolers to annotate in a way that improves their reading comprehension and their ability to engage with, analyze, question the text.  I model it but I have never been able to bring myself to do “book checks” for annotation as some of my colleagues do.  This is not because I think it’s completely useless, but because I hated to annotate as a teenager (but read well) and am still a pretty minimal annotater, even when preparing to teach.  I also, generally speaking, dislike the mixed results of book checks–that is, it seems to me that for every student who actually engages significantly more with the text because of annotating with the knowledge that the book will be checked, there is one student who dutifully makes marks but doesn’t read better, one student who would have annotated anyway, and one student like me, who chafes at being asked to annotate and doesn’t read any better because of annotating.  So it seems like a small return on effort.  I probably should have done it in ninth grade, just to help those students who didn’t go to middle school at SA, and may not have learned annotation then; now that I’m teaching eleventh and twelfth, I feel better about letting them do what they want about annotating, and just modeling it occasionally during discussion with a piece of text projected onto the board.  I know they read more carefully when they know there will be a reading quiz, and they probably annotate more then, too.  I pride myself on making reading quizzes that actually test how successfully they have encountered the text, ones that can’t be done just from reading online plot summaries.  They know if they haven’t read well.  But is that enough?

Heading off to do a community service project today with a bunch of SA students and to muse further over the possibility of changes next year…

Not exactly what I had in mind

So, naturally, the Snork Maiden got sick today.  It might have been a psychosomatic stomachache related to Stubb’s leaving, but I don’t think it was a fake stomachache–just that it might have been one with emotional roots.  Or it’s a small bug, the kind that grips your guts right behind the belly button–I had a touch of that a week ago and I’ve heard that there are a couple of different stomach things going around.

She’s feeling better this evening and did her homework, so I guess she’ll go to school tomorrow–and that’s the week.

I’m still swimming along with the various kinds of stuff I had/have to do–although I have now adopted the jettison method and am almost-randomly moving things onto the “do over or after Thanksgiving” list.  Feeling extremely annoyed with NLNRU right now–having that “is it me, or is it them?” feeling.  I’m going to give fifteen more minutes to the piece of bullshit that’s currently up on my screen, and then I’m going to work out, and then, quite shortly afterwards,  I am going to bed.

Plague zone

You know what else I realized, looking back at past Thanksgiving posts:  I have often been sick during Thanksgiving weekend.  Last year I chaperoned an SA community service activity while a cold was coming on, and it was unpleasant.  I think this year I’ll give that a miss, don’t you?  And while I’m at it, let’s have the Snork Maiden stay healthy, too.

The empty chair

This is going to be a short week, but as so often seems to happen, there will probably be five days’ worth of aggravation in it.  But!  It will not last for five days!  So hooray!  In fact, 48 hours from now, if all goes more or less as expected, I should be kicking back, enjoying a drink, and not nagging the Snork Maiden to finish her homework.

Stubb is off beginning his adventure, hence the title of this post.  Miz P is back on duty, picking the Snork Maiden up from school on the nights I teach at NLNRU.  There are only three classes left in the semester, fortunately.

I’ve sketched out a tentative plan for getting everything done that needs to be done by the end of Tuesday.  Demanding, but doable.

Will I hold to my annual tradition of obsessively planning out a balanced diet of writing, work, fun, exercise, etc., for Thanksgiving break?  Er–maybe.  Unlike some other years, I’m not feeling strangled going into the break; I shouldn’t be at a particularly difficult point work-wise, and I’ve been moving slowly, haltingly, yet unmistakably forward in my writing this semester, thanks to Dame Eleanor’s writing group.  So I’m less motivated than in previous years to fling myself into a scheduled frenzy of achievement.  But I’m still me–a person who likes to be able to see what she has done with her time–and I know I’ll get very down and gloomy next Sunday afternoon if I feel I’ve let the break pass by without really taking advantage of it.  Taking advantage means lots of things–writing time, more sleep, having fun with the Snork Maiden, spending time with family and friends all count.  Tidying, exercise (especially if this weird strain-type injury I seem to have done to my foot is better by then), those are good too.

Actually, I’d love to go clothes shopping, as I am noticing that a few of my favorite garments are starting to look a little bit too worn to wear to work, though still perfectly fine for around the house and out to the grocery store–but I do gather that a lot of people have that idea on Thanksgiving weekend, and I generally try to avoid being in places to which a lot of people flock during the times they are expected to flock there.

So maybe not the mall?

After you’ve gone

Well, it’s November, as you may be aware.  One of the stations the Snork Maiden and I listen to on our way to school has switched over from soft pop to holiday music.  I haven’t pointed this out to the Snork Maiden yet because I know she will want to listen to it all the time.

Stubb is getting ready to leave town for a gig.  He’s going to be gone longer than usual this time.  It’s good news professionally, but the length of the separation and the distance are sobering.

Did I mention that we told the Snork Maiden, who is now in eighth grade, that she could explore other options than staying at Starfleet Academy for high school?  She’s been doing a little poking around on the Internet and talking to her friends from elementary school, but she also seems to be more settled and cheerful this year than she has been.  The big thing she wishes she had that she doesn’t have is a real BFF like she had in elementary school (her friend G, who is still a good friend).  And the only schools she’s really investigating are the ones in which G and another friend, J, are interested.  Our default high school is not one of them, so if she wants to go somewhere else, she’s got to apply.  The first deadline for applying to a particular set of magnet programs is coming up fast.  We’ll see what happens.  We’ve told her that being with a friend from elementary school is not a sufficient reason for changing schools, so she’s got to come up with more compelling reasons.

She’s getting together this weekend with G and J.  I’ll be interested to see whether the subject comes up.