Archive for the ‘general observations’ Category

A banquet of consequences

Hi!  Is anyone still reading this thing?  I knew I hadn’t posted in a while, but I didn’t realize “a while” = more than four months.  The Snork Maiden went to college, I visited her in October, she came home for Thanksgiving, and she’ll be back again in three weeks when her semester is over. I have missed her a lot, but it’s gone fast nonetheless.

My book came out, and I’ve been doing readings and events, so that’s made the time go fast, too.  I’m writing, but a lot of the limited time that I’m able to devote to that during the school year has gone to bringing-out-a-book activity. I’m glad, though, to have events to do to support the book.  I also have a one-week residency lined up toward the end of next summer, and I’ve applied to one other colony.

The school year is bouncing along as usual.  It feels maybe a little bumpier than usual for me because of several absences for readings and events and visiting the Snork Maiden.  And for two funerals, one for a friend and one for a relative. And, honestly, I think the Outside World is really wearing on everybody, kids and adults alike.

I’m coming back here to post, of course, because it’s Sunday of the long holiday weekend and, as usual, I’ve had some bouts of Sunday gloom. We only have two weeks left before a big paper is due, and I’m recognizing, with this project, that I have a lot of anxieties about this kind of writing (persuasive, research-based) that I need to get a better handle on so that I can help the students engage with and even enjoy it.  Some of them are really into it, but others are floundering.  Mostly, my feelings are about how very imperfect most of the results are likely to be. If I were advising someone else, I would reframe those imperfect results as part of an important process–so perhaps I can advise myself and calm the heck down.  Anyway, it’s worth a try.

I have various administrative responsibilities pressing on me, and worries about Stubb’s parents, and feelings about having said goodbye to the Snork Maiden again (although she’s really doing well, and it’s hard to be too sad about her not being here when it’s making her happy to be there).

But!  I have several hours of Sunday afternoon, and a fun plan for this evening–two excellent conditions for getting myself into a good position for the week ahead.  I have been to yoga class, so I’m feeling good in my body.  And I’ve decided that I need to take especially good care of myself these next two weeks, so that I can stay healthy and keep giving people–my family, my students, my colleagues, my friends–the attention and care they have the right to expect from me.

Begin again

Oh hai.  I’m still here. Like my friend What Now?, I’m thinking it might be good to get back to blogging more; I could use the reflection time, since politics have me…reacting a lot..  Unlike WN?, however, I’m not on break yet.  Two more weeks to go.  And an exciting but inconvenient three-day professional-development-related absence right in the middle of those two weeks–so I’m spending quite a bit of this bleary Sunday after the Daylight Savings “spring forward” planning the next several days of grading, prepping, and sub plans.

Before I knew about the absence, I signed up to chaperone a concert right before it, which now seems fairly inconvenient but not quite worth trying to find someone to swap with.  So a fairly demanding week is going to end at about 9:30 PM on Friday, several hours too late, if you ask me.

Things in my small world are basically holding steady.  One small mercy seems to be that we might not need to hire this year, which, if true, probably gives me 30+ hours back this spring as compared to my previous springs as chair.  However, not needing to hire is predicated on the expectation that both of our colleagues on maternity leave–Dorothea, who had a baby in January, and Romola, who had one last week (a while in the making, not quite on the timeline she anticipated when I first mentioned the possibility)–return to school full-time in August.  Each says that’s her plan, but would we be shocked if a baby changed someone’s plans?  It certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

Here comes everybody

  • All my library books have due dates in 2015.
  • Our city library buys extra copies of popular books and lends them for a nonrenewable 7-day loan period.  I was at the library today and saw several books on these shelves that I’d like to read, but contented myself with jotting down the titles and plotting to come back as soon as winter break starts.  If I get them now, I’ll never read them before they’re due.
  • I did pick up a few books I’d requested from other branches, but these are the normal three-week loans (due back the last Saturday of break, and also renewable).
  • Irritating me right now:
    • For rarely sending an email that doesn’t make work for me: the Librarian.  Two or three times a week, she sends me a link or forwards a post from her school librarians’ listserv with an inquiry about whether I think she/we could/should do something like this or with a more general request for my response.  I know she is only trying to be collegial–no, wait, scratch that: sometimes she’s just trying to be collegial; sometimes she is reaching out for support, because she is curiously averse to doing anything in her realm without consulting multiple people for advice or permission.  And yet the ideas she forwards are often really large projects that would take significant initiative and time to do.  I have gotten into a pattern where I respond promptly but briefly to about three out of four of them and let the fourth one slide.  That seems like the right ratio for not encouraging her too much.
    • Oddly, Romola, for being apparently helpless in a situation that she should have known how to handle, but we resolved it.  I am beginning to recognize a pattern in women who when they were children lacked good-enough mothering, in Winnicott’s phrase, and as adults seem to become helpless in the hopes of getting some caretaking from older women (even not-that-much-older women, in the case of the Librarian, who also enacts this dynamic; Romola, at least, is more than ten years younger than I am). I suspect this means that I am now old enough to be the older woman.
    • Finally, Penelope, for not thinking through a better way of introducing a newly  required task to the faculty, and instead insisting repeatedly that the task would be “easy,” thereby attempting, and failing, to erase people’s awareness that they are being asked to do an extra task (which might, conservatively, take an extra half hour a week).  The task itself is not at all unreasonable, I should point out, but trying to make teachers stop noticing that it is an extra task just makes us mad.  Some of my eleventh-grade composition and rhetoric students could have done a better job getting us on board.
    • Clearly it is time for a break.
  • I spent most of today at a family function, and have to go to a holiday party this evening, and a memorial service for an SA staffer tomorrow afternoon.  So Sunday morning and Sunday evening will have to contain all the work, errands, and Hanukkah preparations that are getting done this weekend.
  • A little grouchy.  Trying to decide whether the relief of ditching the holiday party would be worth disappointing Stubb and the hosts.  (Stubb and the Snork Maiden would still go, I think.  I probably should go too.)

Frames 2

New Spanish Teacher thanked me for getting Coach to contact him, which was gracious, but he also mumbled something about being busy and not finding time to respond.  I wonder if he has done it yet.

Coach will probably follow up with the student regardless, but it seems to me it would be better if the two adults had a conversation about the kid first.  However, I’m clear that I’ve butted in to the maximum allowable extent, given that nobody seems to be in danger or anything.

But it makes me think about how much I rely on the other adults at school to help me figure out the kids–and how much of my happiness in the school has to do with having good working relationships with everyone with whom I can possibly manage to have a good working relationship.

The kids are SO GREAT, and being with them is an absolute tonic to the soul–most of the time.  They are idealistic, kind, funny.  They look at things with fresh eyes; helping them discover something new is not that unlike watching a baby eat blueberries or feel rain for the first time. Positive adult attention means so much to most of them, no matter how much positive adult attention they get at home.  I see this with the Snork Maiden: some of the high points of her year are the times when an unrelated adult entrusts her with a responsibility, or helps her acquire a new skill, or responds with genuine emotion to something she’s done.  (And I see over and over that different kids “click” with different teachers.  This is her second year with Teacher Z and also with Natasha, who switched from biology to chemistry–but the person whose desk she hangs around is Sebastian, her freshman English teacher, who was new last year–I haven’t written about him except in passing).

So, teenagers are great to spend time with, and goodness knows there are plenty of them, and it seems as though there are teachers who get all their school-related social-emotional needs met through contact with their students.  Which is not necessarily a creepy thing, as long as their more adult social-emotional needs are met elsewhere; for example, you shouldn’t be telling students about your dating problems, obviously.

It goes without saying that there’s always more work to do; if you’re prepared for the next class, you can prepare for the next day; if you’re prepared for the next day, you can prepare for the next week; if you’re prepared for the foreseeable future, you can do more long-range planning.  And there are always students who need more than the standard amount of attention, whatever that is.

And yet. I would say that it’s never a waste of time to get to know your colleagues.  Not just in your department, not just at your grade level; not just other teachers, but any and every staff member.  And maybe especially coaches, because they have so much direct contact with kids.

I hope New Spanish Teacher makes the call.  Or better yet, drops down to the sports office for a chat.

Three weeks

The school year is just three weeks old, and we’re pretty settled in, I guess.  I learned almost everyone’s name pretty fast this year; the seniors I mostly knew because I taught their class, if not all of the same students, when they were freshmen, and the juniors have been around for long enough that I knew many of them casually, or knew the name and just had to attach it to a face, or knew the face and just had to attach it to the name.  I do have a few name glitches that I hope will smooth themselves out: I have an Alex M. in one junior class and an Alec M. in the other.  And they look a little alike.  I also have a handful of younger siblings, and have slipped a few times calling them by the older sibling’s name.  But nothing too serious, I hope.

Meansomething Index:

Number of students: 61

Courses this year: 4

Number of AP practice essays graded so far: 26

Lunchtimes so far this year: 13

Lunches eaten with colleagues at lunchtime: 4

Lunches eaten at meetings: 3

Lunches eaten alone outside normal lunch hours: 6


Quizzes and small bits to grade for Monday: 54


College essay season

Lots of spare moments this week have been filled with helping seniors with their college essays.  It’s fun to watch the essays evolving (usually) toward better, more engaging, more specific reflections of the people they are and the stuff they care about.  There’s a lot to say for having to construct a meaningful story about yourself as you get ready to move on to the next stage.

And on Tuesday I heard about the first college acceptance.  That student was admitted early to his first-choice school, so the process is over for him.  It’s a longer road for others, although by early December many kids will have received at least one acceptance.  I guess I’d better get moving on those letters of recommendation.  I have only received four or five requests because I taught so few juniors last year.  That makes a nice change!

Happy days

I am not doing one of those #100happydays things, but I tell you, if I were, today’s might have been “Went to the frosh-soph volleyball game and all the varsity girls came and sat with me to watch.”  I felt like a mother hen with her chicks.  (Very tall, athletic chicks.)  I couldn’t stay for their game–it was delayed because the opposing team’s bus was late, and the junior varsity squad had to play first, and I had to go meet the Snork Maiden.  But I’ll catch one soon.


Eye on the ball

Okay, so I have got to get over the total clusterfuck which is IT’s deeply sincere desire to foist excellent new machines on us with no communication and minimal support because they are completely overwhelmed by the results of their good intentions and bad planning.  I am meeting an IT person I will call Lord Rhoop in my classroom at 7:30 on Thursday and I will not say anything about the clusterfuck.  I will not even gently allude to the clusterfuck.  I will a) express gratitude and I will b) ask questions as necessary and I will c) express gratitude again.

And then I will shut up.

I will not even discuss it with my colleagues.  It is the forbidden subject for the next two days.  We have way too much work left to do before classes start and we have lost way too much time already.

Home again

I really liked Robin Williams and I’m sorry that he’s gone.

I think I need to take a break from Facebook, though, because all the Dead Poets Society homage is making me taste bile.

(There are two kinds of high school English teachers, and one of them LOVES Dead Poets Society.  I am the other kind.)

It’s good to be home.  Everything went fine–music camp, conference, Chicago.  I visited the Poetry Foundation for the first time and had a happy time browsing in the library.  Encountered some poetry books that meant something to me at one time or another.  (Never noticed, when borrowing Phyllis McGinley’s Times Three from my high school library, that Auden wrote the introduction.)

My return to school begins tomorrow, but there are still almost two weeks before classes start.

75 minutes and 17 wordy emails later

And I’m pretty much caught up, at least for now.  Unfortunately, also wide awake and have to get up in six hours or so.  Haven’t exercised yet this week; my shoulders are stiff, despite getting a lovely massage on Saturday.  And I didn’t eat well today.  There was a parents-bring-breakfast-for-the-staff day and do you know that massive, dense “Cinnamon Creme Cake” at the Corner Bakery?  There was one of those and I ate a piece the size of a drugstore paperback, not to mention some other junk.  Well, it was only Tuesday; I’ll do better on Wednesday.

also didn’t write Morning Pages on Tuesday.  No Morning Pages, no exercise; bad eating, work avoidance.  Hm.  Coincidence?

I did blow off a free period in the nicest possible way, chatting with Orsino and with Teri, one of the senior editors of the literary magazine.  He was in my room, talking with me, when she wandered in, complaining of too much free time after AP’s.  So I gave her the books I’d gotten her–I present the literary magazine editors with a book, usually Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, in recognition of their work during the year, and I also wanted to get her a copy of one of my favorite American poetry anthologies, and the three of us talked about college and literary studies and books for a while.  There’s a student I’ll really miss.  I taught her as a freshman and again this year.  She and the Snork Maiden have gotten close this year, working on the literary magazine and on plays and in a dance class together, and her impending departure (for college in the UK) is a major reason the Snork Maiden has been down lately.  Poor Snork Maiden.  She’s been so much happier in high school than in middle school, but she’s always searching for that one girlfriend who has your back.  Teri is the closest she’s gotten so far, but now she’s leaving.  I’m becoming a total pushover for her requests to spend time with friends in her own class, even to the point that we’re going to let her go to a midnight showing of the new X-Men movie on Thursday night/Friday morning, even though she has school on Friday, because she’ll be going with two other freshmen.  She’s been doing fine academically, and it’s the end of regular classes, so I’m not really worried about that; I think the mood boost of doing it will balance out the loss of sleep, at least through the end of school on Friday.

And speaking of mood boosts and loss of sleep: my spirits have lifted, but I’d better get to bed.