Archive for the ‘summer’ Category

The roundabout papers

Seven weeks later.  It’s been a good-but-odd summer so far.  I still tend to regard summers as experiments in how to make summer work best for me, but then I suppose that’s my attitude about a lot of what might be described as normal life.

Good, because I have had some fun, seen some friends, done some writing, and gotten some other work done.  Odd, because this is the summer that ends in the Snork Maiden’s departure for college.  So there’s a strong sense of an era ending or perhaps having just ended.  There’s also a fair amount to think about and take care of–from tuition payments to strategizing with her about what she will take, ship, leave behind.

One of the best parts has been a solo trip on which I got to stay with PymFan and Mr. PymFan and also to spend some good thinking and writing time by myself.  This began about ten days after school ended, and I love the timing of that–even better might be about a week after the last meeting, with a few work days in which to tie up some loose ends and then peace out.  The trip was a little more shadowed than I’d have liked with a possible emergency-hire situation, and I also had to do parts of an online training while I was away, but it was still pretty great.

The Snork Maiden’s transition to being a college student who doesn’t live at home most of the time is also making me think a lot about what I want my life to be like when I’m someone who doesn’t have a child living at home most of the time.  One thing I want is to be more intentional about seeing friends, both nearby and far away.  All of those “someday” trips and visits–I definitely have the sense that the “someday” window is getting smaller.  Recent illnesses and injuries of friends, and a death in the family last year, have also reminded me that no one knows how much time she has.

With the book coming out, I am actively planning travel that will take me near people I want to see.  I’m also looking at planning farther  in advance–which seems a bit easier now that the Snork Maiden is more in charge of her own life.

Anyway, that’s been this summer so far.

The beautiful changes

It’s kind of amazing that Richard Wilbur is 96 years old. (A collection of his poems furnishes me with this post’s title.) Just before the AP, my students and I read his 1949 poem “Juggler,” which was the subject of last year’s AP Lit exam’s poetry analysis essay.  I don’t have anything to say about it except that we were all struck by how weary it sounds for having been written by a 28-year-old man.  (Not that a 28-year-old man can’t or shouldn’t feel weary, in 1949 or at any other time.)

I’m creeping back to the blog today because I feel the need of it, need to get my mind around this time of year again. I was out of town for some of the holiday weekend, returned Sunday night, haven’t done much today, Memorial Day, except some grocery shopping and putting in an appearance at a cousin’s graduation party.  There’s a lot to do, schoolwise and lifewise, but there’s also a sense of loosening–the regular schedules are dissolving, with a couple of special days for review before exams begin, and then exams, and the last rushed day of farewells, one strange weekday without any school, and then graduation. A final day of meetings, and then we’re launched into summer, except for the long tail of the school year.

Maybe now is the time for one of those summer charts?  I have been feeling a bit stuck on what I need to do now, but maybe some looking forward will help me unstick?

Seven

…more days of classes.  Two of those will be days with no seniors, so one day I’ll have two tenth-grade classes; the next, just one tenth-grade class.

It’s good that a lot of things are tapering off, because there’s also an upswing in end-of-year tasks.  I have to write a new final for the tenth-graders–there might be a few things I can borrow from other people, but not much.  There are a couple of end-of-year report things and the finalizing of placements and teacher deployments.  A slow drip of students (not mine) who want to talk with me about their courses for next year.  A few disappearing seniors who have to be chased down for final pieces of work.

Twenty-one days into May, I’ve written on fifteen of them, missed six.  Starting on the Tuesday after graduation, I’ll be away for a week with the Snork Maiden while she does a brief summer internship about two and a half hours away.  She’ll be busy, I’ll be letting the school year out of my system, and that will be the start of my writing summer–which, in the very best-case scenario, might be about thirty solid work days (taking account of visitors, professional commitments, etc., and if there are no family health emergencies or other disasters–last summer had plenty, thanks.  Unfortunately there are ongoing family health issues, and I’m actually figuring those in as best I can–not that you can plan for sudden hospitalizations and so on, but I’m mentally setting aside seven to ten days for the usual disruptions of life to happen in, and hoping it won’t be quite that many).

 

 

Twenty-one

That’s about how many more days until we start exams.  The school year will be over in roughly a month.  We’ve chosen the valedictorian and the recipients of year-end awards.  Some plans for next year have been made.

I applied for four summer writing residencies and didn’t get any of them.  Not a huge surprise, since competition is stiff, but I’m still disappointed.  So I’m making my own plans for a couple of different summer writing retreats–solitary, unhip and cheap, but I think I can give myself much of what I need.

Meanwhile, I’m endeavoring to touch work every day in May so that I can launch myself into a productive summer.

The sense of an ending

I was thinking about how I get stressed by the approach of the end of the school year, and I was suddenly reminded of a half-remembered quotation from somewhere: “If I liked this, what about it would I like?”  (I think it’s the New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl, but with just a brief search I can’t find the exact quotation and a proper attribution, only other people who seem to half-remember it the same way I do.) It’s a great question for art, and perhaps even better for life situations.  So, if I liked the last six weeks or so of the school year:

  • I would like the feeling of really having come to know the students pretty well, of having seven or eight months of shared experiences and struggles and jokes.
  • I would like seeing my new colleagues settling in and getting comfortable, looking forward to next year, finding a sense of ownership about their courses and their ways of doing things.
  • I would like coming to accept what’s not under my control, of realizing that some of the year’s goals won’t be met, that nothing was perfect, that a lot of things went right anyway.
  • I would like getting ready to bid farewell to colleagues who are leaving: some because they are going on to new adventures and I’m happy for them, and perhaps just one or two that I’ll be relieved not to have to deal with anymore.

Twinkle

  • Got an actual letter informing me I didn’t get the thing I didn’t get, with a handwritten note thanking me for applying and letting me know I had been a finalist.  That was nice.
  • Put in another application for a summer thing.
  • Got the hiring process underway.  One person coming Friday, one Tuesday.
  • Had good conversations in my AP Lit classes on this Rebecca Mead article about “relatability.”
  • Oh my gosh the awesomeness of the creative projects on Paradise Lost.  Poems, paintings, a sculpture of a human brain cradled in two hands.  A scene in Lego.  Oh my gosh.

Canned

The first day back after winter break was a bit of a shock to the system–one forgets how much energy it takes to be among so many people!  Lucinda wryly observed, “This is harder than sitting in my living room in sweatpants, playing with my two-year-old.”  Yeah, this was harder than lying around reading and occasionally going to a yoga class, writing poems, doing a bit of housework, and all the other things I did during the break.  But we’re up and running now.

The first summer application is nearly ready to go–it’s the paragraph about the current project that I’m not happy with, but I’ll get there.  I might have finished this evening except that I spent forty-five minutes on the phone talking down a worried relative who is a parent of a high-school senior who is freaking out over college stuff despite already having a couple of great acceptances to schools that are hard to get into.  Really feeling frustrated about the way that kids and parents get caught up in the college admissions frenzy.  Realistically, kids at this student’s school, like kids at SA, get good preparation and good advice, and they all get into multiple schools and have good choices–they are very fortunate by any measure.  But some of them–some of the very strongest students–define success as this or that Name School and in their minds everything rides on that.  This student could be happy with her acceptance to a school that rejects over 85% of its applicants, but she is in anguish over the possibility of not getting into a school that rejects over 90%.

It just seems like such a waste of emotion. But of course I am not 17.  I am much older and I have applied to so, so many things.  I’ll send this one off and I’ll dream about it a bit, but mostly I will focus on other things.  If I get it, I’ll be thrilled (and panicked about logistics).  If I don’t get it, I will sulk for a day and be done.

And I know that teachers at places like SA are somewhat complicit in the whole dynamic–but truly, I believe that kids should go where they will thrive, and I define college admissions success as finding the right fit that you can afford.  I try to hit the exact same notes of congratulation and excitement with the kids who tell me they got into Podunk College as with the kids who tell me they got into Fancypants U.  And in fact it comes naturally–I can see certain kids will blossom at PC who would be lost at FPU.

I hope that I look at this post in a year, when the Snork Maiden will be in the thick of it all, and feel the same…