I’m kind of a cranky, short-tempered person, or at least spending a few days back at school as the year is starting to creak into motion is making me notice that I am.  Maybe it’s just that these days are unstructured compared to the regular school year, and I don’t react well to the degree of unpredictability and the discovery of issues I didn’t know were issues.  I mean, on the surface I am polite, although sharp at times–measuring as a J on the Myers Briggs, I find my tension rises when people depart from a previously-agreed-on plan, particularly when they behave as though they don’t remember the original plan, or even that there was one!  So an event that turns out to be quite a good thing, really–a ThinkPad for me to use at my desk and also take home and use as a tablet if I want–is a series of small shocks.  (We agreed I was going to keep my old desktop. I particularly wanted to keep my nice large monitor. I didn’t realize that they were going to force me to run Windows 8–and why do they always make these big changes right before school begins?)  

In the end, it all works out fine.  The IT people are good, hardworking types, and we are so lucky to have access to resources like new hardware and software. All of these changes are essentially very good ones: I don’t need the old computer, they let me keep the large monitor–in fact, they are insisting on giving me a better one with sharper resolution–and Windows 8 is what people are running.  But those lovely people in IT are not good communicators, especially since the most communicative person in IT left this summer, and Tuesday was a comical sequence in which I kept leaving my desk, coming back and finding yet another change I didn’t know was happening (including being locked out of my machine twenty minutes before the kids in the college essay workshop showed up).  I’d also be willing to trade some of the great equipment for an actual instructional technology specialist, someone who has actually been, or is, a classroom teacher. 

Meanwhile, the college essay workshops are some of my favorite teaching experiences.  It’s fun to coach the kids without the pressure, on both sides, of grading, and to help them find topics and approaches that they feel passionate about.  I have 15 seniors, and I’ve taught everyone for at least one quarter except for a girl who was in my homeroom when I still had one, so I haven’t taught her but I’ve seen her at 7 A.M. five days a week after morning swim practice. Some amazing stories have come up so far, and as always when the kids write about their lives outside of the classroom, I’ve learned a lot–about quantum physics, cheerleading, kirtanadoption, the biomechanics of the knee.  I have to encourage them to tell us about the thing itself, not primarily about their emotional reactions to it (“I love it so much!”).  They never seem to believe in the power of detail in their own work–in other people’s work, sure, but not their own.  I told the girl who is writing about quantum physics that she should think about how she would explain the work she is doing to her grandma, and she said, “Actually, my grandma studied physics in college.”  I apologized for making an ageist/sexist remark, and she said, “It’s okay, I’ll just think about how I would explain it to my other grandma.”

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Pym Fan on August 16, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    You realize you’re one of the LEAST cranky, short-tempered people I know, right? But I empathize. I always react badly to unexpected changes myself, and changes to computer stuff that you depend on are especially infuriating. At least the college essay workshops are something you enjoy…


    • Posted by meansomething on August 17, 2014 at 4:59 am

      But you don’t work with me! 🙂 And I really do think I need to watch how much I carp to my colleagues. But thanks!


  2. […] generally enjoy the few days of college essay workshops in August, though today the rising seniors were restless and goofy.  It’s a weird class, […]


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