Archive for the ‘friends’ Category

Tiny beautiful things

Mazel tov to What Now?, who converted to Judaism on Wednesday!

My happiest moment today was when Lucinda came in after school to tell me that she and her husband decided that they’re not going to leave the area when he retires from the military this year and that she’d like to stay at SA for at least one more year.  Sweet!  With Olivia returning from maternity leave, it is possible that we won’t need to hire this year, but of course it is way too early to tell.  I know of at least two teachers who would like to have a baby and one who will probably go to grad school at some point–and those are just the most obvious candidates for change.

My second-happiest was reading some short personal essays responding to Hazlitt’s essay on Hamlet–in a few students the assignment seemed to evoke a particularly thoughtful and genuine response, and these were students who are not usually the most eloquent about literature.  I might want to play around with more short essays like this–more mindful of an audience than journal entries, more freedom to use a personal perspective. I do need to write that rant about the word “relatable,” though.

I wanted to go to yoga tonight, but I think I’m just too tired.  I haven’t gotten a full night’s sleep since we started back to school.  Every day has been a solid block of prepping, teaching, grading, and meeting–except I did get to take 35 minutes for lunch with colleagues on Tuesday and Wednesday. I submitted my first residency application, and I have worked on the book every day in January.  I have work to do before class tomorrow, but I think an early night followed by an early start is my best plan for getting it all done with some measure of serenity.  Yoga-induced serenity will have to wait for tomorrow.

The right and the power

It’s really easy not to use parentheses and em dashes if you don’t blog for a few days!  I’m back from my visit with PymFan, which was enormous fun.  We more than fulfilled our shared goal of sitting around and talking endlessly.  It was great to spend time with Mr. PymFan and the PymFan cats, too.  And I got to have lunch with a friend from high school with whom I only keep up in a very general way through Facebook; there, too, we were able to just plunge into a long conversation about work and middle age and high school and teaching.

There is still more to talk about with PymFan, though, which is why I hope we can arrange more frequent visits in future.  It’s pretty much a 24-hour trip in each direction: drive six or seven hours one day, lay over somewhere, finish the drive the next day. We’re looking at the possibility of a midpoint meetup for next time.

Today I slept in and now I’m looking at a list of things that need to be done during business hours today before the long July 4 weekend.  I’ll be at SA for a couple of hours in there, dealing with this and that, and running a couple of errands on the way there and back: library, UPS place, etc. And a coffee with Dr. Tea (sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it).

We are all welcome here

Stubb and I went with two friends to a pub quiz night on Thursday, something new for us and quite a lot of fun!  This is a little bar and grill about a mile from us that hasn’t been open very long, so we were also motivated by wanting to support a new local business.  This was their first trivia night, with just three teams, but ours won!  The prize was a $30 gift certificate toward our next visit, so we’ll definitely go back.

On Friday, after some morning errands and whatnot, I head off for a few days to visit PymFan.  One of my priorities for this summer is to see friends, and she is one of the people I most want to see.  It’s an almost twelve-hour drive, which is why I don’t see her more often, but I’m also looking forward to the time alone in the car, thinking.  And when I get tired of thinking, I can listen to Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, which I got out of the library on CD.

Are you my mother?

A highlight of summer break so far has been spending some time with Bardiac as she passed through the area.  We had a very delicious Cajun breakfast (omeletwithandouillesausageandshrimp! cornbread!), a stroll, and a long chat.  I felt very, very chatty!  I won’t say she didn’t get a word in edgewise, because I know we talked about Northwoods U., and her new kayak, and some of our shared GU memories, plus the things we saw on our stroll.  But I know I nattered a lot more than she did, and even though she reads this blog, I felt like I was re-narrating for her the whole dramatic arc of my experience of becoming a high-school teacher.  I guess it’s something I’m still figuring out (well, you can tell that by reading the blog).  I also felt like pouring into a sympathetic, informed, but non-SA ear some parts of the story that haven’t made it onto the blog because I’ve been trying to be discreet.  (Wow, did I pour.)

It’s kind of wonderful to drop back into conversation with someone you’ve known for a long time but see only very occasionally.  It’s been said before, including by me, but how great it is, too, when you’ve been kind of keeping up with each other via blogs and Facebook, and you don’t have to stop to catch up on the basic facts–you rode ten thousand miles on a bike?   It was also kind of wonderful just to talk to Bardiac, and be back in contact with how she is in the world–curious, analytical, clear-eyed, gently humorous.  Smart, of course, and kind.  That stuff.

One of the long loopy tangential conversations began when Bardiac asked me how the Snork Maiden was finding it, being a student in the high school whose mother teaches there, and I told her it was okay most of the time, which I really think it is.  I do try to stay out of her way, and most days this year I rarely saw her before 2:45.  The sophomore lockers are in the same hallway as my classroom, so I may see her more often next year, but she can always choose a different loitering spot, as many people do.  (She didn’t have much time to loiter this year, but next year she will have a free period.)

I didn’t happen to get onto the tangent that is this little story, though: As I was figuring out deployment this spring, I mentioned to the Snork Maiden that someone else might advise the literary magazine next year.  I know I’ve mentioned that spring brings some pretty intense pieces of chair-ship that coincide with the peak of work on the lit mag, and I’ve been casting around for room in someone else’s workload for it.  I mentioned that it might be nice for her if someone else did advise it–she could continue to be involved without having me there all the time (I was especially thinking about the weekend layout sessions, but also the weekly meetings that happen in my room at lunch).  “I don’t want someone else to advise it!” she said.  “I like having you as the advisor.”

Awww.  I guess I’ll stay involved.  It actually worked out reasonably well, I think, in that Lucinda will have it to help round out her part-time load, but meetings will continue to be in my room (partly because with her part-time schedule she won’t be on campus every day, so there will be meeting days when she’s not on campus) and we’ll work on it together.

Now, you just know that there will come a day when she is totally resentful and miffed that I am there, and I will think back to that sweet moment in the car when she insisted she wanted me to do it and wonder what happened.  But it did happen.  So there.

A number

I’ve written 54 of my student report card comments and have 32 more to go.  This would be the term when I have the most students I’ve ever had at SA!  The good news: except for a couple of small tasks, I am ready to hand the AP Lang classes back to Gamma; the remaining comments should go fairly swiftly; Monday and Tuesday give me some time to write and revise before the comments are actually due.  We’ll get together on Monday to proofread one another’s comments, but if I’m not quite ready with one of my classes (which seems possible), I can probably snag a colleague to proof that for me on Tuesday.

The bad news, at least for my ability to get everything done, is that we have an outside visitor on Monday whom I’ll be showing around in my capacity as department chair.  She’s going to visit classes, so she’ll be occupied part of them time, but I would like to sit in on at least one of those with her.  That might just have to go by the wayside.  We’ll see.

Also, that MFA class. Enough said.

The Snork Maiden and I are slated to do a couple of fun things today–a late breakfast with Stubb’s parents and FLS’s Halloween party.  I’m glad I’m forcing myself to do something other than schoolwork.  The challenge will be not to be all antsy and worried about not doing schoolwork.

Naked lunch

Just saw the comments from PymFan and Jackie on the post about cultivating work friendships, and thought I’d report on the first week back at school.

It is great to be working with Dr. Tea again, and in addition to all the literature conversation and faculty/staff/student gossip, to be able to talk with her about the Snork Maiden’s adjustment (which has been as good as I could possibly have hoped for the first week.  She seems basically upbeat and engaged and not overwhelmed.  Surely there will be storms ahead, because this is middle school, but I’m so happy about the way this week has gone). 

I was able to eat lunch in the faculty workroom twice this week, and to chat with people I like.  The other two days, I had student groups meeting in my room.  Those were nice days too.  It looks like an excellent group of students working on the literary magazine this year, with lots of ideas and energy.  One of my English department colleagues is co-advising with me (since Maddie, who co-advised last year, is going back to graduate school), and I think I’ll enjoy working with her.  She is someone I haven’t gotten to know much; we’ve always been very cordial, but also fairly formal.  That will probably dissipate over the course of the year, since this is the first project we’ve really collaborated on.  I’ll have to think about a nickname for her.  She’s a rather intimidatingly fit woman in her early thirties who seems to camp, hike and rock-climb a lot–and when she’s not doing those things, she’s in the gym getting ready to. 

While it can be aggravating not to teach in my own classroom (it’s like I’ve almost forgotten pulling my rolling file box full of papers and supplies to all my college classes), I’m liking teaching a class in Akela’s classroom.  He’s a soft-spoken, courteous, somewhat older (mid-fifties) history teacher, and his room is a very orderly environment in which he obligingly cleared some shelf and drawer space for Romola, who also teaches one class there, and me.  I sense that I’ve crossed some threshold in his estimation, perhaps just by dint of sticking around SA for a little while (I think he’s been there going on 20 years).  At some point last year, he seemed to have recognized that we share, if not a great deal of institutional history, certain orientations and concerns, as well as a fair number of students, and suddenly it became a lot easier to talk with him.  I also appreciate that he’s very thoughtful about teaching and often has helpful perspectives on particular students.

I didn’t see Natasha at all this week–she teaches at the absolute opposite end of the high school, and we don’t use the same workroom or bathroom.  But we exchanged a quick email update on our daughters’ first week in middle school, and set a date to have lunch at the end of next week–which was, unfortunately, the first day we could both do it.  (Things have ramped up very quickly this year–or maybe they always do.)

Six characters in search of an author

This might be the year in which I start to write more specifically about some of my colleagues at SA.  I don’t know, I’ve just been looking around the room a lot during our many meetings and thinking about how intriguing some of them are, not to mention how much I like some of them.  Is it a sign of comfort with the environment, that I’ve settled in enough to start getting really nosy about other people?  Or is it that I’ve seen people change–or not change despite the passage of time and things changing around them?  Either one could be true; it could also have something to do with the Snork Maiden’s impending entrance into the SA community, and a feeling that some greater part of my own life has shifted over there. 

I’ve been thinking, for example, that it might be nice to socialize with some of my SA colleagues.  That lunch with Natasha and ND was one of a very few times I have spent leisure time with an SA colleague–Natasha and I walked around the mall by ourselves while allowing the two girls to go off on their own, though with a cellphone in case we needed to make contact–for an hour or so, and we had fun browsing and chatting.  (In a reversal from what you might expect from my description of ND as more sophisticated than the Snork Maiden, the Snork Maiden has a cell phone, while ND has not been allowed one yet.  We got a $10 pay-as-you-go one for her in third grade, when she started staying after school on her own sometimes, and upgraded to a regular phone on our own plan just this month.)

Anyway, I can imagine having dinner with Natasha and her husband, if Stubb’s schedule permits (his work schedule and my work schedule being two of the chief impediments to a more active social life for us).  I like Dr. Tea’s husband, whom I’ve seen recently at school events, and of course I have become deeply fond of Dr. Tea.   The younger teachers–not all of whom are that much younger, actually, but all of those I’m thinking of are childless, which is probably more relevant–do go out for drinks on Friday now and then and that sort of thing.  There’s a book club that a few of the newer teachers and staff started last year, but that’s not exactly what I have in mind–at least, not a book club, since that’s a bit too much of a busman’s holiday.  But something else that we could meet over.  Not bridge, but that’s the general direction, I think.  What Now? wrote about a faculty/staff musical group, which is also in the general direction.  I’d also be interested in getting together with colleagues to attend plays or opera or something along those lines.

I should add that I’m a little nervous at the idea, as well as interested.  I’ve done quite well so far at SA moving along a spectrum from cordial to “work friends” with whom I share genuine thoughts and reveal parts of myself, but only at work and in a work context.  It’s actually been quite a few years since I’ve made what I would think of as an real new friend.  Or tried to make one!  What if I am rebuffed?  And what if I do make a real friend and then it turns out to add unlooked-for drama to the work environment? 

I realize that both of these are commonly-run risks–in fact, I’ve run them, and accepted the consequences, many a time.  But I don’t think I’ve done so at this (middle-aged parent) stage of my life–or, more tellingly, at an institution in which I’ve been quite so invested, or expected to have such a long tenure.  There’s definitely a part of me that wants to keep on being cordial to everyone and not get too involved with anyone.  Easier, less messy.  But I miss having friends–my life now is mostly work and family (both nuclear and extended).  FLS is working out of town; PymFan lives out of state; I recently enjoyed a wonderful early breakfast with EB (who’s commented here once or twice, but I’m not sure whether she’s still reading), a 2YC colleague who became a friend, and hope we can spend more time together, but she is rather far away in this somewhat sprawly city, as well as plenty busy.  And here I am spending something like 35 hours a week in an institution full of people who are mostly funny and clever and nice…

Maybe the place to start is, as I’ve mentioned before, lunch.  Try not to have lunch at my desk unless I really have to.  Make plans to eat with Natasha or Dorothea or the new colleague who’s teaching ninth grade with Dorothea and me.  Or to convince Dr. Tea that we should both leave our desks and eat outside or in the workroom.  See what develops.

And meanwhile, buy opera tickets?

Live blogging the sleepover, 3

They’ve moved on to decorating the plastic cups with glitter glue and chatting about Harry Potter and TV shows.  (Dee to the Snork Maiden: “You really need cable.  You’re missing out!”)  And which of their classmates remind them of characters in The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.  They’re in their pajamas already, so when they run out of cups, I guess I’ll try to move them toward setting up camp on the living-room floor and putting in a movie.

“You know what’s weird about Taylor Swift?  Her eye ends here, and her eye makeup ends here.taylor-swift

Live blogging the sleepover, 2

When Dee’s and Kay’s moms dropped them off, we chatted for a little while and one of them mentioned that her daughter was “showing a lot of fifth-grade attitude,” and indeed there seems to be more back sass than usual around here, too.  The giant board game also seems like a fifth-grade activity: they’ve made a path of paper around the room, with instructions written on some of the sheets, and they’re rolling the die to advance around the room.  The instructions are all social in nature: e.g., tell about an embarrassing moment, say who you don’t like, what are you most obsessed with, etc.  This must also be a fifth-grade thing.

Live blogging the sleepover, 1

The Snork Maiden is having two friends, Dee and Kay, to sleep over tonight, and from a book of slumber party ideas they picked some ideas which Stubb very kindly helped them realize, including chocolate-peanut-butter-banana milkshakes and a facial made with bananas, oatmeal and honey.  I wanted nothing to do with the latter, but by the time Stubb had coated Kay’s and the S.M.’s faces with the mixture, it was time for him to go to theremin rehearsal and I ended up supervising the cleanup, which, as you can imagine, was messy.  The stuff slid into their hairlines and ears.  Dee declined–her mother had just spent two evenings braiding Dee’s hair, plus Dee is a very sensible person for a ten-year-old–and was merely entertained by the spectacle of the cleanup.

Now the question looms: what comes next?  Make a giant board game, decorate plastic cups with glitter glue, or watch a movie?  Giant board game seems to be winning.