Archive for the ‘interiors’ Category

Room

During all my years of college teaching, I only had my own office during the year I had a visiting position at a SLAC.  It was on a top floor, with a slanted ceiling and a dormer window, and I loved the privacy of it.  I wrote there, I had students there without worrying that they were in someone else’s way, and I made friends with the other folks on the hall.  I also taught one class that was in a seminar room just a few doors away, which was heavenly!

Other years, I was in a cube farm or an office shared among several people or a communal instructor workroom.  At the big university where I taught for three years, I shared with just one other person.  That was pleasant, especially when he or she taught Tuesday-Thursday and I taught Monday-Wednesday and we rarely needed the space at the same time.

When I came to SA, I had a room of my own for the first few months, and then space was reorganized and I joined Dr. Tea in her room, which she took with tremendous good grace.  I look back now and I realize that she must have really liked me, even then (we’re good friends now), to have agreed to such a thing!  She is department chair, though, so when we moved to the new building last year, it was obvious that she needed to stake out her piece of real estate.  I was a bit apprehensive about sharing with Romola, but it has worked out fine, at least as far as I can tell.  It’s not as easy as sharing with Dr. Tea, which was almost effortless, but we get along well and I think Romola and I have come to respect each other’s strengths.  I certainly respect hers–she’s a very strong teacher, much better than I am in several ways.

Still, as I get deeper and deeper dug in to SA, I’m getting a little crankier about this room-sharing thing, and wondering whether there’s any prospect of eventually having my own room.  It’s one thing to share a room when that’s the norm for your department; it’s another when only two rooms on the whole floor are shared.  There are seven English teachers on our floor (plus two other people who teach an English course or two but their primary role is different), and we have five rooms, so three of us have a private room and four of us share those two rooms.

This year has been pretty well managed overall.  I’ve taught my three freshman classes in my own room, and my juniors in Dr. Tea’s room across the hall.  (The extra junior class that I inherited meets in Elinor’s room, which she shares with our maternity-leave colleague.)  Romola has the same setup, which currently gives us one free period together when our room is not in use, which is very helpful for things like meetings and giving makeup tests.  Also, we both teach mostly ninth grade in that room, so the decorations and bulletin boards are pretty much geared toward the same curriculum.

But.  I have a weekly literary-magazine meeting in our room at lunchtime, which means Romola can’t use the room then for meeting with students or giving makeup tests.  After school, sometimes one of us has a student coming in to do a makeup test, but the other one has some students coming in to ask questions, and it’s hard to balance the quiet that one student needs with the other students’ right to come consult their teacher after school.  And next year we’re planning to develop a creative-writing group that may eventually turn into a class, which means even more stress on our room–not to mention that I won’t be teaching ninth grade anymore, and we’ll probably want to rework the bulletin boards.

Today, after school, a student came in whom I hadn’t seen in a while.  She was interested in the creative-writing group, and I wanted to talk with her, but Romola was tutoring a student and I didn’t want to stay and chat. We stood in the hallway for a while, but I felt, and I think she did too, that it would have been good to have some privacy somewhere.  It wasn’t just a question of space–it was also time, since I had to go up to the parking lot and meet the Snork Maiden, and she had to go get picked up by her dad–but space was definitely part of why we didn’t have a longer talk than we had.

We have one departmental colleague in her own room on our hallway who is primarily a middle-school teacher, and because she teaches most of her classes in the middle school, several of us teach classes in her room.  (She has her own because she’s senior to Elinor, me, the colleague who has just gone on leave and will be replaced by a new person in the fall, and Romola–that’s the descending order of seniority of the four of us who share.)  It would make a lot of sense to give her a room in the middle school, thereby freeing up one room and allowing us just to have Romola and the newly hired ninth-grade person share.  But can such a room be found?  The prospects seem dim.

There are definitely good sides to room-sharing: Romola and I get to swap ideas, vent to each other, lend books, and keep current on each other’s practices.  I learned a lot from Dr. Tea during the three years I shared a room with her, and I’m learning from Romola, too.  Still, though–I’m wishing I had a space of my own.

They do it with mirrors

It really is practically winter break.  How’d that happen?  Wake up, go to work, come home, go to bed, and next thing you know it’s almost December.

What Now? asked, in a comment on what is now a three-week-old post, whether my lovely settled feeling at SA was partly due to the new building.  I had been thinking that it was mostly a function of time, but on reflection, the building theory makes a lot of sense.

I live a warmish part of the country, and schools here do not have to have interior hallways like those I, and perhaps you, grew up with.  Classrooms can open directly to the outdoors here, and most at SA do. While students might put on a jacket in order to walk from one room to another, they don’t have to put on snow pants or parkas.  We have patios with picnic tables instead of an indoor cafeteria, and when it’s too cold or too hot or it rains, the students go inside the classrooms for lunch, but they can eat outside for at least half of the year.

One problem with this, though, is that there isn’t very much indoor gathering space besides the classrooms.  We opened a new library two years ago, which immediately became a socializing space–not what anyone had planned, but it showed how much the students wanted to have an indoor socializing space.  Fortunately, they had expressed this through whatever process SA had for finding out what the students wanted from the new building (these surveys were done before I arrived, of students who have graduated by now), and we now have a high-school building with interior hallways and a fair bit of indoor socializing space.

I’d have to say that the biggest difference is simply that students don’t have a strong impulse to move away from the classrooms.  Instead of packing up and going to the library or the picnic tables during their free periods, they might just sit down in front of the lockers, or in the big areas that will eventually be furnished lounges (furniture is on order).  This means that if I pop out of my classroom at lunch or during my free period, there are usually some of them hanging around not too far away.  The classroom I share with Romola is in the half of the top-floor hallway with the sophomore lockers (the freshmen are at the other end), so the kids I see the most in this way are my recent students and their friends.  It’s a pleasant vibe, mostly, although occasionally I do have to stop and ask them to “sit with more decorum”–this is the wording I have chosen to use when I feel that the way in which they are sprawled over one another is just a bit too suggestive.  The phrase is a bit prissy, but it works.

As for my colleagues, several factors contribute to a generally sweeter vibe overall.  One is that I happen to like almost everyone on my floor, which means that almost all of my casual encounters during the day are at least superficially pleasant ones.  A second is that nearly everyone has his or her own room–only two rooms on the floor are shared–which means that people usually come out on purpose when they are ready to have lunch or are happy to have a chat while making a cup of tea, rather than having to leave their rooms because someone else is teaching in there.  Last year, the workroom could be crowded, and often there was someone in there who really didn’t want to be there instead of in a nice quiet classroom; that’s rarely the case this year.

Lunchtime can be extremely pleasant, with Dr. Tea and Elinor and Akela and some other colleagues I like, all of sitting down and enjoying our lunches together.  My problem continues to be that I am so likely to be busy during lunch, but at least once a week I do manage to sit and relax with whomever else has managed to keep the lunch break free.

I don’t think these factors would be enough to create coziness and settledness if there were already friction and discord, but they seem to help improve what already seems like a pretty good situation.  Although there continue to be drawbacks to sharing a room (more on that in another post), I also like the location of the room Romola and I share.  It’s just upstairs from the main office, and mere steps from the workroom.  Nothing in the new building is really inconvenient, but this room seems particularly convenient to me.

As I write this, it’s Sunday night, and I’m a little wigged out by everything I didn’t manage to do this weekend, but at the same time, I’m looking forward to going back tomorrow.  I’m still pretty amazed, three years and nine months later, that I dropped into this job that I like so much.  There’s something to be thankful for!

The interpretation of dreams

Funky dream last night, in which I moved into my new SA classroom.  Except it wasn’t at all what it was supposed to be.  Instead of a new, albeit somewhat smaller space with a long whiteboard at the front and about twenty desks facing it, I’d been moved, with Romola, into a series of three very small rooms.

The first was a kind of anteroom, with a small whiteboard but no seats.

The middle had a large black chalkboard, rather like those in most of the classrooms in my own high school.  Facing it, instead of desks or tables with chairs, were two double beds, like you’d see in a hotel room.

The third was more like an alcove, not really a room at all.

No place for books.  No desks for Romola and me.

And I was torn between two urgencies: finding someone who could at least replace the beds with desks, or, better, who would understand that this space was totally unsuited to our needs; and leaving SA in time to get to an urgent class at NLNRU.

I guess I am feeling a little unsettled by the move.  I’ve been at SA a few times in the past week, doing some bits of work related to school, but also some writing-related tasks of my own.  I’m sort of squatting in a teacher workroom there, amid boxes that will be moved to the new building in August.  I also just received, in Saturday’s mail, my NLNRU contract for next year.  My days have been lively–there’s plenty to do: of my own work, on projects at both institutions, around the house, and for the Snork Maiden.  But they’ve been lighter and freer, even so.  And I find I’m more likely to remember my dreams.

Official business

This is the first week of real summer vacation, sort of.

Last week began with the closing meeting at SA, but a lot of the week was taken up with packing up my classroom for what should be the last move for a few years, at least, and with various other end-of-school-year tasks.  There were goodbyes, and there was also catching up on other stuff, including NLNRU stuff, that I neglected during the week of exams and grading.

And this week–well, it’s not at all vacation-y.  I have spent most of it so far across town at a college where I used to adjunct a bit–I’ve called it BAC when I’ve had occasion to mention it, but I don’t think I have actively taught there since the term before I began this blog.  I have been working on a curriculum-review type of project they asked me to come in on, and while it’s been really interesting and useful and I will get a check at the end of it, it has also been intense and tiring.  Plus, though it’s about the same distance from my house asNLNRU, it’s on the other end of just about the worst possible commute in the city.

Being back there is interesting, though, if only because it illustrates that all the work you do matters and in a way, you don’t really leave the past behind.  It’s been over four years since I stopped teaching at BAC, and when I left I was pretty sure I would never go back as an adjunct, chiefly because it really wasn’t worth it unless I couldn’t get hired anywhere else.  The pay was better than at 2YC, but worse than everywhere else, and as I believe I mentioned two sentences ago, the commute is hellacious.  I wasn’t tempted to burn any bridges–I left on good terms–but now I am really glad I didn’t, because I have had to work with all sorts of people I remember, and who remember me.  (These people didn’t invite me on to the project, and I wasn’t invited because of having adjuncted at BAC four and five years ago.)  It’s a small place, and the provost and the registrar and the dean of assessment are all the same people, and they all remember me from my adjunct days, and I remember them.

I also ended up working, one day, with an actual student I had in 2007, who is now a graduate student and who remembers my writing in a comment to her that she should have more confidence in her work.  She was a returning student (I would say she’s about my age, mid-forties) and she was always sure her writing wasn’t up to snuff, but she consistently turned in some of the best work in the class–so typical of returning students!

I have the loan of an office from a professor who’s away, and I love her office.  I love the little conference table by the window–I wonder if I could fit one of those in my classroom at SA?  I love her ergonomic chair, her plants, the colorful piece of fabric draped over her printer to keep the dust out, her photos, her books, her posters, and her candy dish.  She has burdened me with terrible fantasies about my new classroom.  If I had a Ph.D. in her field (psychology), I would consider doing one of those horror-movie things where I stalk her and take over her life, just to have her office.