Archive for November, 2014

Protected: Hard times require furious dancing

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Beaten, seared, and sauced

It will be almost all grownups on campus today.  A lot of the kids, including the Snork Maiden, are working on community service projects, and some have left town for Thanksgiving.  It’s a work day for non-teaching staff–for some of them, that means a special project day; for others, a close-to-normal day; for the office staff, a day that contains fewer than a thousand constant interruptions.  There’s a safety drill down at the lower school area this morning. The school is providing lunch from a Mexican carryout place for anyone who’s working on campus, and as you know, I love a festive lunch with my colleagues, so I’m going in.  And I’ll probably get some work done, too.  (Okay, seriously, I have to go in.  The last ten days have been so dominated by Committee Thing that it was all I could do to get some sad little batches of quizzes back to the kids. I’ve got some serious catching up to do.  But the lunch thing sweetens the deal.)

I started a post about the Ferguson conversations my seniors had yesterday.  It was intense, but worthwhile. Definitely not the sometimes scattered day-before-a-break vibe. But it’s going to take longer for me to sort out my thoughts about those.


The road to Dune

I’m liking these Dune titles because this week has felt a bit like being on a planet with a hostile–well, let’s say challenging–environment.

I was at school from 10:30-12:45 yesterday, then at a lunch for two of the visiting people, then back at school in the evening for the fall play.  I will be back there today as well: I’ll bring the Snork Maiden to campus for her call, two hours in advance of curtain; I’ll go down to my classroom and get together some grading; and then from an hour before curtain to the moment the students go out to take their curtain call, I’ll be sitting (most likely) in the greenroom, chaperoning.

Chaperoning backstage is usually a time when one could get work done, although, historically, I often haven’t gotten very much done because I’m watching the kids’ antics, or chatting with someone, or maybe reading.  I think I’ll be motivated enough, and organized enough, to do better today, because the two-day week ahead needs to be an efficient one: I’ve got to get back to the students certain assignments that I was too busy to deal with this week, and I’ve got to get my seniors launched on their next essay, and so on.

Usually a weekend spent at school means a difficult Monday during which I feel I didn’t have enough of a break.  I’ll probably feel a bit like that on Monday, but hey: two-day week. (Usually I chaperone a community service project on the day before Thanksgiving.  This year I decided to give it a miss.)

Before the Thanksgiving break, though, I have to get through a lot of discussions about what went down this past week, and a committee meeting out of which a recommendation is meant to come.  I’m not settled in my own mind about what that recommendation should be.  That’s probably as it should be, because I have a lot more people to listen to, and the meeting should be–as so much else in this process has been–a genuine discussion rather than a battle between armies. I think it will be, but I also think it will be hard, and that there is no outcome that will fill everyone with confidence. We’re just going to have to struggle forward in a messy human way.  Rats.

God emperor of Dune

Okay, weird: I came back to WordPress after posting crankily about the latest changes, and mysteriously I arrived back at the old “posting experience,” the new-post page that was the default before the “improved posting experience” that rolled out awhile back.  Hm.  Well, thanks, whoever you are.

I came back because I wanted to complain some more that while websurfing for relaxation before bed, I came across yet another infuriating flipped-classroom article that intimates that high-school English (specifically English–but I’m not linking this stupid article) could relegate “lectures” to videos watched at home and spend class time doing “class projects” and “group work.”  First of all, I don’t know any teacher who spends serious high-school English-class time “lecturing.”  Even when I was in school, almost thirty years ago, English “lectures” were not a thing.  And second, “class projects” and “group work” are just descriptions of activities with no attention paid to the content or skills involved–or, of course, to the design of the “projects” and “work.”  It’s kind of like telling you that your office should spend less time “pushing paper,” and more time in “brainstorming” and “projects.”  Well, who am I to tell you how you and your co-workers should spend your time in order to serve the core function of your business?  Hey, I buy widgets and use services!  Clearly I know how you should do your job!


Heretics of Dune

Oh, and after I got home I spent half an hour reading an unbelievably long Facebook thread that unfolded over the course of the day/evening about the National Book Award in poetry, which Louise Glück won, and about the various merits of all the shortlisted works.  Just kidding, it was about Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, and whether it should have won, and about all the attention it’s gotten and why.  I haven’t read any of the short- or longlisted poetry books.  Actually the only NBA-nominated book I have read so far is Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, which was terrific.

Children of Dune

WordPress, would you please stop changing your interface.  Seriously.  I’m too tired to figure out that “New–>Post” is now “Publish–>Posts–>Add.”  This is a hobby, not a job.

Ooh, I think it just started raining.  We need rain, so that’s good.

I ate at 11:30, 2:15, 6:00 and 9:00.  I probably could have done without the 9:00, but there was some stress eating going on (leftover pizza from the provided dinner).

I don’t have a huge capacity for people having feelings at me, I guess.  I mean, I am pretty good with people I care about and am close to.  I am also good with students and their feelings because I remember what it was like to be that age and feel that way.  But the events of this week are leading a lot of people to tell me their ideas, and those ideas are coming wrapped in (or maybe stuffed with) a lot of feelings.  A lot.  I come home feeling permeated by other people’s feelings.  It’s unsettling.

I know I need to listen, and take notes, and not try to change their feelings.  That’s my goal for Friday.  Their feelings will pass over me and through me, and when they have gone, I will turn my inner eye to face their path.  Where the feelings have gone, there will be nothing.  Only I will remain.  

(Hat tip to Frank Herbert)

Meanwhile, somewhere in there I am still teaching. And the last rehearsal for the fall play was tonight.


Yes, I did eat some of my groceries today.  I also ate a little paper boat full of sweet-potato fries (but not the little paper boat).

I ate many other things, too, but maybe I won’t bore you with the details.

The sweetest thing was coming home early–and by early, I mean “when the school day ended”–and talking a little with Stubb but otherwise not talking.

On Thursday, we continue having public and semi-public events, and then there’s a separately planned, long-scheduled event for middle-school parents to learn about the high-school program.  I will be paired with Eveline, the history chair, and we’ll give presentations to rotating groups of parents.  I know I did this last year–I touched up the PowerPoint today–but, disturbingly, I have no memory of doing it.  Either it was blessedly uneventful or so unpleasant that I’ve just blocked it out.

Food is going to be a theme again tomorrow, because there is no time slot in which to eat dinner.  The most obvious breaks for meals happen at 10:45 AM and 2:15 PM, so those will probably be breakfast and lunch.  I can probably sneak in a snack at 6 as long as it’s something I can eat quickly and unobtrusively and not spill on myself.

Served cold

So today I remembered to take my carefully prepared bag of groceries.  I was busy in the morning prepping and giving a makeup test, so I quickly ate an egg sandwich from the cafeteria for breakfast before teaching.  At lunchtime, I had to make some copies and pop in on a meeting, so I ate a protein bar and taught my second and third classes.  By a 3 PM meeting, I was hungry again, so I ate two snacks from the meeting snack bowl: a package of freeze-dried Fuji apples and a gingerbread Fiber One 90 calorie bar (the cinnamon one is better, but I hadn’t tried the gingerbread).  Then I trotted a campus visitor back and forth until it was time for a catered dinner meeting.  Dinner was good–couscous, fish, asparagus, salad, and apple tart.

You may have noticed (if you’ve continued reading this What I Ate Today entry) that I didn’t actually use any of my carefully prepared bag of groceries.  Maybe tomorrow.

Lunch poems

Kicked off the week by leaving my carefully assembled bag of groceries in the fridge at home.

Bought a nice plate of gyros and vegetables for brunch (11:30 after finishing the morning’s teaching), ate a protein bar at 3:30, and dined off the leftover yogurt and granola from Friday’s faculty breakfast, plus a vanilla cupcake from another Friday event.  So not quite what I had in mind, but not too bad.  Home at about 9:20.

Otherwise, the week is going okay so far.

Dear committee members

This is the week our big committee thing goes public, to an extent–meetings and events and showing up to things on top of a regular week of teaching and the usual stuff.  Social interaction out the wazoo.  (“Sorry I Murdered Everyone, I’m an Introvert.“)  It’s also tech week on the fall play, which adds complexity in some ways, but is also quite convenient, in that the Snork Maiden and I will probably be done at about the same time most nights.

I anticipate that I will get home overstimulated, possibly cranky, possibly hungry or just snacky.  I think I’d better take a few more groceries in to school–it’s very likely that I’ll eat all of my meals there three or four days a week, and the food service closes at 3:30. There will be some food at some of these events, but only one proper sit-down meal that I know of.  The Snork Maiden should be better off, as we sprung for the “meal plan” the school offers for the theater kids–for $10 a night, Monday through Thursday, they provide dinner at the dinner break.

I should also build in time for writing and exercise, to keep myself as centered as possible.  I’ve let both those things slump in the last couple of weeks–well, I have stepped up the gentle exercise a bit, but I’m still having to be careful with the strained muscle.  I did write yesterday.  I also spent a few hours at SA while the Snork Maiden had rehearsal and got some things ready for the week ahead.

At your institution, when an outside speaker or observer comes, do you find that the people most likely to show up to things and make questions or comments are the outliers–either the most functional people or the weirdest, most disaffected, or most likely to grasp the wrong end of the stick?

I feel very close to the other committee members right now, in a you-and-me-against-the-world kind of way.