Archive for June, 2015

Forks in the road

I got some good chunks of work in yesterday on the poem and Dorian Gray.  Didn’t get to yoga, though, as a minor family emergency came up–Stubb’s dad had a fall and cracked a bone in his foot.  He’d driven himself to the doctor (wouldn’t want to bother the kids!) and then couldn’t drive back.  He’s having surgery tomorrow, or so we think.  Good thing Stubb is here for a few more weeks.  (His brother–Sniff and Snufkin’s dad–lives nearby also, so there’s backup.  Brother-in-law and I did the transport-move car-pharmacy run yesterday.)


  • Morning: poem, Dorian Gray, pick up Snork Maiden from bus stop
  • Afternoon: go to SA, placement emails, manuscript submission
  • Evening: yoga

Captain’s log

For the past nine months or so I’ve been starting most of my writing sessions by journaling for a few minutes (or more).  It helps me reconnect with the work, and it’s a good place to put stray thoughts that affect parts of the book other than the one I’m working on just then.  It also reassures me that I’m doing something even though large parts of my writing sessions might consist of staring at drafts and revising the same line over and over.

Today, though, I feel the need to back out even farther and come here to the blog to plan the day’s work.  I’ve been up since 6:30, but now it’s mid-morning and not much has happened so far–I’ve gotten the Snork Maiden off to class, taken a run and had breakfast.  I’ve got a couple more hours until she comes home, clearly prime work hours, but I am letting them go by–why?

My main writing task for the day and the week is working on a poem that has been solicited for a journal.

My main SA task for the day and the week is reading The Picture of Dorian Gray, which I have never read and which I will teach next year to tenth-graders.

I also have administrivia to handle that would probably be best dealt with in two 25-minute blocks of emailing time, one in the morning and one in the afternoon (to catch whatever responses come in after the morning bout).

After the Snork Maiden comes home, I need to run her to an appointment, and I should probably also go over to my mom’s for a bit, and I would like to go to yoga this evening.  Maybe Stubb could drop me at my mom’s and take the Snork Maiden and then pick me up afterwards?  That might be the best use of time and gasoline.

And I should be sure to take some stretch breaks today, because I need to take care of my hips, especially with the running (I’m going short and slow) and the sitting to work.

Okay, that all sounds very doable.  Weird how much less I can get done when I have less, overall, to do.  On a school day I would normally have gotten at least two hours of work (of some kind–teaching or grading) done already!

Small wonder

Walking into the faculty workroom on Monday, I was delighted to find a couple of people I know from the lower school (kindergarten through fifth grade) working there.  It’s unusual to see them at our end of campus, but with the camp programs shifted to our building, I wasn’t altogether surprised.  I plopped down on the couch and we had some chat, and various people came in and out, and then I came and went several times, as I usually do, putting my lunch in the fridge and getting water and coffee, before I saw the IT folks come in with more computers and it dawned on me that the workroom was actually becoming the temporary lower school office and I was waltzing in and out like I owned the place. I apologized for trespassing and they apologized for taking over the room, and once again I wonder why we never seem to get the memo about this sort of thing.  However, they urged me to keep using the room as needed, which I’ll probably do, just with more consideration.  It’s got the kitchen with the fridge and coffee supplies, and houses the main photocopier for the floor.  The whole thing has a fairly provisional, camping-out kind of vibe, so I’m taking them at their word that they don’t mind my traipsing in and out.

I’m actually quite thrilled that they’re there, because one of the things that kept coming up during our search for a new head of school was a sense that each division is too much its own “silo” (another bit of management jargon, but expressive) and, especially, that the lower divisions can feel disregarded by the upper ones.  A K-12 school is kind of a funny animal, in that some of our students have been here since kindergarten, but others have joined in waves, mostly at the major entry points of sixth and ninth grade.  Their SA experiences can be quite different in character and tone–depending on lots of things, of course, but in part depending on whether this is the only school they’ve ever known.  The Snork Maiden left a beloved elementary school to enter SA in middle school, and that definitely colored her view of the place for a few years.  For other kids, it’s the place where they invented a teenage identity as new ninth graders.   With so many disparate experiences, we can’t really treat upper school as the culmination of an experience that began in kindergarten, since for 75% or more of any given graduating class, it’s not.

Also, to be honest, we don’t have or create many opportunities for collaboration among staff in the different divisions.  There are some people who teach in both middle and upper school, but most people are very much devoted to one division, and there’s a definite divide between middle/upper and K-5.  I have been meaning, since I became chair, to learn more about how we teach “language arts” in the lower grades, but as yet not much has come of this vague intention.  So I’m looking at this office and camp situation as a chance for some casual positive contact with some of my lower school colleagues.  One of them is a former middle-school English teacher, the one we hired Miranda to replace in sixth grade when he became assistant head of the lower school.  Another was, until recently, a fourth-grade teacher, and we served together on the search committee for the new head of school and got to know each other quite well.  She’s going to be away with her husband at his university’s overseas program in Germany in the fall, so I hope we can have lunch a few times before she leaves.

A view from the bridge

The Snork Maiden really only needed me to show her the bus route–when we got off at NCC, everyone else who’d gotten off at the same stop swarmed in the direction of campus, and she turned to me and said, “I think I can find it from here.”  I don’t think she quite grasps how big the campus is (it’s actually bigger in area than GU, our local state university, though it has less than half the enrollment), but I pointed out the building she needed to aim for and went back to catch the bus home.  Tomorrow she’ll take it herself both ways.

She liked the first day of class.  She was surprised the class was so big, although she couldn’t say how many people were in the room–I don’t know what the cap is, but when I taught comp there it was 36, and this is a language class, so it’s probably not much more.  Also, there were people hoping to add.  I wonder how much attrition there will be.

I peeked at the syllabus, which looks good, and clear, and firm.

I had four main tasks on my list for SA, and I got all of them done.  I know that in a couple of weeks I will start to miss teaching, but for now, it’s awfully nice not to have to worry about prep and grading and to be free of the tyranny of the schedule!

Moving on

Slipping into summer rhythms without too much angst this year.  I’m back working on the new book, alternating chunks of writing time with family stuff, errands, seeing friends.  Last week–the first week of break–I spent a few hours at SA most days, and I figure I’ll continue that pattern this week, either morning or afternoon.  Tomorrow I’ll take the bus to NCC with the Snork Maiden and help her locate her classroom; then I’ll go back home and write while she’s in class.  I’m giving her a ride to a friend’s house after class, and I’ll go on to SA.

The major task is finalizing teacher deployment so that we are certain all classes are covered and everyone has the right load for next year.  By the end of the semester, I was able to tell everyone pretty much what their preps would be, but not necessarily how many sections of each class.  It’s also possible–because apparently enrollment is high in certain grades–that we will have an extra class or two to cover.  The person I need to talk with is Penelope, who does scheduling, since it’s not always just about numbers, but about having enough sections to be able to put students in the right classes.  Last year, for example, we could have run three AP Lit sections and accommodated everyone in terms of numbers, but the seniors’ schedules get so complex, with all the electives they can take and all the different levels of math and languages that seniors might be in, that we needed to run four just to make sure there would be a class for everyone who needed it.

The building will be busier than it usually is in June, because the summer programs are using a lot more of the high school rooms this year, due to construction on the lower school end of campus.  It will be nice to have the littler kids around–and I do enjoy seeing the older kids being counselors and aides.

Islands in the stream

The Snork Maiden and I went over to NCC today and had an extremely pleasant and efficient experience.  Admissions & Records has moved into the new student services building (funded, like a number of other higher-ed projects in the state, by a pre-recession bond issue), and it’s a much nicer, more welcoming space than it was when I taught at NCC seven years ago.  Then, it was a big, noisy, shabby room with lots of open counters, paper and boxes stacked everywhere, peeling-up linoleum, and harsh fluorescent lights.  Now, it’s several nicely demarcated spaces for the different functions of the department.  The admissions area is quieter, with softer lighting, industrial carpeting, and individual service windows.  The line was short (it’s the week before the first summer session) and the worker whom the Snork Maiden timidly approached was friendly and helpful.  She was able to pull up the application, verify the SA paperwork, and give the Snork Maiden the student ID number she can use to register online.

I was amused to see a large, colorful, easy-to-read sign explaining how to get into a course that’s supposedly full, both via the waitlist and via an add card from the instructor.  It provided exactly the information that’s missing on the website.

The mysterious island

The Snork Maiden is hoping to take a community college class at Nearby CC this summer, and submitted her application to the college online last month–in advance of the deadline to enroll for summer, though just by a few days.  She got an emailed confirmation with the promise of more info within a few weeks–which may or may not be before the class actually begins.  So we’re looking through the college website to figure out her next steps.

The college website isn’t that easy to navigate, and pieces of similar but not identical information are available in different parts of it.  The schedule of classes is easy to find, but not so the information about concurrent enrollment for high schoolers and the exact timeline for turning in the pieces of documentation she needs.

One page implies that, having applied, she can pop into Admissions to hand in the paperwork from SA, but I think there’s a fifty-fifty chance they will tell her to wait until the system generates her student ID number, which it may not before the first day of classes.  I am pretty sure, based on my own experience as an instructor, that she can (and should) still show up for the class she wants to take and do the waitlist thing (especially since, as a HS student, she has lower priority than all the regular CC students), but I have only found one glancing and indirect reference to this practice anywhere on the new-student pages.

And I worked there.  If I’m finding it difficult to help her locate the information she needs, how hard is it for a parent who didn’t go to college themselves, or went to college 30 years ago in a different era and has had no experience with CC bureaucracies since then?

The unfortunate importance of beauty

I haven’t yet read Amanda Filipacchi’s new novel, The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty, but I am delighted by her NYT op-ed piece, “How to Pose Like a Man.”

The thing for poets, whether they have their photographs taken by Marion Ettlinger or not (a novelist friend of mine did, about ten years ago; as I recall, it was $1000 for a sitting then, which seems okay for a photo of unearthly luminosity–but the poets I know mostly don’t drop that on a photo shoot)–anyway, the thing for younger women poets seems to be tank tops or camisoles in author photos.  Bare arms and shoulders. They look “dreamy,” in Filipacchi’s word.  And sensitive.  Vulnerable.  Please read my book, please be nice to me.

I love the author photo with the article, by the way, and also the first one on the author’s bio page, a classic Ettlinger forearm/face pose.


I’m close to making today’s grading quota, but I am dragging myself through the last few pieces.  I had to bribe myself with cookies and this blog post.

We had our departmental lunch today after the morning exam and ordered two bottles of wine (for twelve people, so not really that scandalous–some of us didn’t partake).  And six desserts to share.  This place serves brunch until two, even on weekdays, along with lunch.  I had a mushroom omelet and a glass of rosé.

One more day of exams and grading!