Archive for the ‘kvetching’ Category

Shipwreck at the bottom of the world

Okay, the title is melodramatic.  I’m just feeling kind of…Sunday afternoon right now.  And this is just about my immediate surroundings, not the world, which is worrisome too.

It was actually a very cheerful week in some ways–a couple of biggish things happened that I can’t blog about: a very good thing for Dr. Tea, and a midweek off-campus event for me that I’d been looking forward to for a long time.  Oh, and the previous week I went to GU to speak to graduate students about careers in independent schools.  Teaching is going fine–the Major English Poem has been such a delight, and I think I might finally be figuring out how to handle second-semester seniors.  The spring play happened and was terrific, not just as a piece of theater, but as a learning experience for the students and the community.

The little dark clouds hanging over my head are clouds I’ve had before, so I know they’ll pass, but:

  • I went idly to the webpage of a summer thing I applied for about six weeks ago and saw that they have already announced the recipient.  There’s been no email notification to applicants, which is annoying, but of course the really annoying thing was not getting it myself.  Pooh.
  • Despite her earlier announcement, Lucinda’s plans have changed and she actually isn’t going to be coming back next year.  I will miss her.  And, of course, this means we do have to hire at least one person.  I actually have one person I would like us to interview, a departmental spouse, and one person who I might need to interview because Ivanhoe knows and likes her.  Both of these situations are complicated, though, and to know that I will be spending, at a guess, 20+ hours between now and spring break on hiring is not happy news.  On Monday, I have to start talking with people about this–Lucinda just told me.
  • I had eye-rolling moments of impatience with four different members of the department this week: two for jointly bringing forward a potentially controversial novel (language, adult situations) that they think they want to teach–but one of them hasn’t read it and the other read it several years ago before beginning to teach high school (Go back and read it and make the case!), and two for general drama.  It’s Farch.
  • I have a lot of work to do generally, both teaching/grading and otherwise.
  • February has been a crap month for writing habits.  (January was awesome, but it really went to hell after the first week of February.)

The Snork Maiden has to be at school for the play this afternoon, so I’m going to take her and do some work until my sister arrives to see the play.  (I have a couple more summer things to apply for, too.)  Then I’ll take my niece out to do…something, we’ll figure it out…for a few hours, and will get another hour or so while the Snork Maiden is at strike.  That will just have to do.  Then home, for laundry and general prep for the week.  I chaperoned the play backstage on Friday and watched it on Saturday, so this will be one of those at-school-every-day weekends.  I need to plan some kind of relaxing treat for midweek, I think, so that I’m not absolutely cranky and snappish and feeling deprived.


Oh, you guys. This glute thing is getting old. I have had pain significant enough to interfere with activity and sleep every day for a month.  I saw the physical therapist on Tuesday (had to wait a few weeks for an appointment) and went away feeling pretty optimistic because a) it seems clear that there’s no involvement of spine, discs, SI band, or anything else back-related, and b) with diligent stretching and exercise and minimizing sitting, it should get better.  The unfortunate bit, he said, is that, done properly, the stretches hurt.  And they do.  And I have been doing them diligently, which means that I have added a stretch-ache to the intermittent nerve pain.  In which I haven’t yet seen an improvement.

I know five days is not really a lot and that I need to give it time.  I have moved the lectern in my classroom (which I hardly ever use when teaching, but do stand at to grade or use the projector PC) to the side of my desk and am doing most of my prep, email and grading standing up.

I did go to a regular yoga class today and was able to do just about everything. I lucked out, actually, in that today’s class happened to put a lot of focus on opening this whole area–which might be why I’m feeling a bit worse tonight.  Maybe things will feel better in the morning!

Three cups of tea

I walked into the faculty workroom earlier this week and New Spanish Teacher was drinking coffee out of MY mug.  We don’t have communal dishes, people.  I have my very own mug that I use every day; it’s a souvenir from this exhibition. Before I got it, I used a mug from the NLNRU book fair.  I didn’t say anything.

Later, I saw that he had washed it and left it in the dish drainer.

The next morning, I saw him drinking out of the History of Art mug that belongs to the history teacher mentioned in this post. And the same afternoon, I heard him mention to another teacher that he had used somebody’s mug by accident.  I have a feeling the history teacher said something.  So now I don’t have to.  (He hasn’t used my mug since–or anyone else’s that I know of.)

Which is good, because I’ve been busy making myself unpopular by pointing out lapses of communication to our communication people.  Since I started on the new committee, I seem to see lapses of communication everywhere at SA.  Internal and external.  It’s a problem.  I realize it’s not my problem, at least not in the sense of being able to fix it.  However, I am a school parent as well as a staff member, so I can see when the school isn’t informing parents about an event they probably should be informing parents about.  An event they want parents to attend!  But no one is going to attend if they don’t know it’s happening, or if they don’t know until a few days before the event.

The IT problem, such as it is, is a communication problem too, but things seem to have settled a lot now that all the new people and new devices are up and running.  Still, though. It’s more complicated than I would have realized to ensure that people are informed of the things of which they ought to be informed.

You might point out that I can’t criticize, considering that I couldn’t even tell an individual colleague not to drink out of my mug.  However, I might counter that my message got across just fine.  I waited not twenty-four hours and someone else delivered it for me.

The duckling gets a cookie!?

You wouldn’t be able to tell from this blog, but I have spent a lot of time on the room problem.  On the one hand, I am managing okay.  My classes are going well, and I’m functioning with a fair bit of efficiency when it comes to moving myself and my things in and out of the three different rooms in which I teach.

On the other hand, it takes extra time and extra brainpower to make all this work. My students and I move desks every day, always at least twice, and some days up to six times.  They know the drill now, and they like sitting in a circle, so they’re pretty willing about it, but in each room my class is followed by a class of freshmen or sophomores for which the teacher usually prefers a row arrangement, so back they go.  I am always shlepping books, papers, sometimes my laptop, a DVD.  At least once a day I want something–some supplies, another book, a piece of paper from a file–that is not to hand.  Sometimes I’ll scoot back to my room for it, disturbing another teacher in the process, and sometimes I’ll just soldier on.  Romola and I have just one free period in our room, and we each have to try to remember to carry out everything that we need during our other frees, then find a quiet place to work.  I can work with people buzzing around, but Romola needs quiet and minimal distraction.

The people most affected are Dinah, Gwendolen, and me: Dinah and I because we teach in three different rooms (though me more than Dinah because she has two class periods and two free periods in her own room), Gwendolen because she has four (four!) other teachers using her room and no free periods in it.

Others are affected, of course–there’s no one in our department who isn’t affected in some way, even if it’s just because she’s getting booted from her own room so a colleague can teach in it.  Penelope probably scheduled us to teach in other English rooms so that we’d be more likely to have what we needed, but I’m coming to think that we might all be happier if some of these wandering classes were sent to underused rooms on the hall.  In past years, I’ve taught in a math room and in Akela’s history room, and both of those were fine.  Most of the history teachers, in addition to teaching all their classes in their own rooms, have three free periods in those rooms; it seems fairer that I should deprive Akela, for example, of one of his three free periods so that Gwendolen can have at least one.

I volunteered to collect problems and inconveniences related to the room situation for a week so that we had some data, and even without everyone participating, I easily filled 60 lines in a spreadsheet with individual incidents (“moved chairs,” “moved chairs back,” “computer wouldn’t accept login,” “needed access to own materials,” “technology incompatibility,” etc.).  It seems clear that these inconveniences, while they might be small things taken individually, are truly getting in the way of our providing the best we can for the students–not least because they steal time.

Armed with the data, we had a meeting to try to figure out some short- and long-term solutions on our own, and did come up with a couple of ideas that might ease matters in the short term (like putting guest-teacher laptops in three rooms), but then we just hit a wall: we don’t see any way to improve the situation unless we can get another room.  Fortunately, Dr. Tea decided we needed to call a meeting with Penelope to figure out ways that she can make things a little better for each of us soon, and then to ensure that we aren’t screwed so much in the future.

I’m becoming aware that some of my colleagues are getting tired of talking about this, so I’m trying to squelch the temptation to keep processing the whole thing aloud.  I do think, though, that one thing all this talking has done is to keep us from getting frustrated with one another, and to keep us focused on the root problems, which are that we don’t have enough rooms and the schedule is screwed up.  Otherwise, we could easily slip into resenting one another for all these inconveniences–

  • The teacher in Gwendolen’s room before me always finishes about a minute late; never, never a minute early.  We only have five minutes to change classes.
  • A lot of us have the habit of locking our laptops when we step away (Windows + L).  It’s less time-consuming than logging off and logging back on, it lets us keep programs and documents open, and it is important, because we have students swarming around all the time, that we not leave computers unattended with sensitive emails popping up and grade files accessible.  The problem is that then another teacher can’t log in to put in attendance, and attendance is supposed to be put in during the first five minutes of class.  I’ve accidentally done this to Dinah, and Gamma has accidentally done it to me.
  • It’s distracting when someone pops into your class to get something out of her desk while you’re teaching.
  • And many more.

So I have managed not to get annoyed at my colleagues, but the situation has started to get to me.  I’m even looking resentfully at the language lab, which is next to my classroom, and which seems to get only pretty minimal use.  In theory, of course, I think we probably should have a language lab (although I honestly don’t know–given the light use, maybe it’s redundant given the resources we have in classrooms?  Maybe a couple of extra laptop carts that could be shared among three or four classrooms would work just as well?).  In practice, I’m thinking that it would make a mighty nice classroom for, oh, ME.

The head of the high school came to observe me last week as part of my annual evaluation, and he showed up a couple of minutes late because he went first to my classroom, then to Dr. Tea’s classroom, and finally to Gwendolen’s classroom, which is where I was teaching.  Ha.  Yes, indeed, what am I doing in there?


I am in a wildly bad mood right now.  Funny, because on the face of it, this wasn’t a particularly terrible day.  It’s true that an annoying thing happened at Starfleet Academy: the people who decide who goes in which room next year have decided that instead of this plan, they want to exile me to another part of campus, which will solve some problems for them, apparently, but cause other ones for me. 

However, this is by no means a done deal, and I talked to my chair and then wrote an email about it, and I’ll probably get some kind of concession even if I don’t get exactly what I want.  So I don’t think that’s the exact source of my bad mood.  No, I think it’s probably 40% the result of giving my exam today and fielding the waves of anxiety from my students, 15% the room issue, 15% the continuing messiness of my house, 15% the lack of cooperation from a tired and fractious Snork Maiden, and 15% not getting any significant kind of a break for who knows how long. 

We went out to dinner with Stubb’s parents tonight, and as his parents and his brother and sister-in-law compared notes on the movies they’ve seen recently, I felt myself filling with rage because I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie in a theater.  I’m not even such a big movie fan–I just suddenly felt ridiculously sorry for myself because I’m not having any ordinary old adult fun like going to the movies or just doing something with a friend.  FLS took the Snork Maiden and me out recently for my birthday, which was so great of her and I really appreciated it, but the Snork Maiden was uncharacteristically antsy, interrupted us every other sentence, and was unresponsive to FLS’s gracious attempts to turn the conversation toward more Snork Maiden-centered subjects.  (I would say that the SM is getting bored with being with just me, except that her social life has been reasonably lively lately–playdates, birthday parties, etc.)  And I wasn’t all that charming either because I kept nagging the SM to sit properly, stop interrupting, put your shoes back on, blah blah. 

I know that my big break is coming soon, but I don’t think it’s soon enough.  If I’m to get through this weekend, and the sleepover that the Snork Maiden is having with two pals on Saturday, I think I have to leave her with my sister for a few hours on Saturday morning or my head might explode.  And I have to go somewhere that really counts as fun, damnit.  I don’t think movies start early enough. 

*Added later: I listened to Loveline while I washed the dishes and made 24 tiny apple tarts (phyllo shells with apple filling–apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, butter–for the Snork Maiden’s class’s Johnny Appleseed celebration tomorrow), and I’m feeling better.  Sometimes I need to kvetch before I can get my perspective back and remember what a great life I actually have.  However, this does not mean that I don’t need fun.  Fun helps me appreciate my life.  I am still trying to think of what I can do on Saturday morning to have some.