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Baby steps

Returning to the blog to write, as Hemingway recommended, “one true sentence”:

This fall, I am not writing any college recommendations, and I am so glad.

It’s not that I suddenly feel I have loads of free time, of course. But I do remember that at about this time last year, I was spending at least one day every weekend writing college recs–and a significant number of prep periods, lunches and after-school hours. And this year I’m not.

It’s because I didn’t teach juniors last year.  I’m not teaching juniors this year, either; for the second year in a row, I have 10th and 12th grade.  So next year’s seniors will be students I had as sophomores, and a few of them might ask me to write for them if I also have them as seniors–but it won’t be an onerous number.

Juniors are very rewarding to teach, and I like the AP Lang class–in many ways I think it’s the class I’ve taught best at SA–but it’s also very nice not to be spending October weekends writing letters.  (The last two years, the additional hours of sitting really did seem to contribute to flare-ups of the hip problem, as well.)

Something’s gotta give

And for now I suppose it’s the blog. I do miss it.

School has restarted and much is going well.  Our new hire is, by all indications so far, excellent.  The not-so-new-anymore leadership, in the second year, is making some bolder changes, of which I approve. Looking around, I see that change can be hard, but, as the new Head said recently, we ask the students to take risks, make changes, and grow, and those things aren’t optional for us, either.

I’ve made a commitment to myself to spend half a day each weekend writing.  I managed it last weekend, before school began; I think I’m going to manage it this Saturday even though I have to go out of town Sunday and Monday.

Family health issue still going on, an intermittent and unpredictable drain on energy.  When that’s resolved, maybe I’ll get back to blogging.


Despite family health stuff, the usual long tail of the school year, and distractions both ordinary and unusual, I’ve been writing.  Poems, not blog posts.


The big sleep

Graduation is always emotionally intense, but this year’s really took me down.  Aside from the usual elements (hundreds of happy/sad/confused people all gathered together in one place, saying goodbye to students I’m fond of), there were two other factors this year:

  • A handful of students in the graduating class have had a parent die, one of them just this spring.  The Head of School asked for a moment of silence to acknowledge those who couldn’t be with us, which was lovely.  But watching those particular students receive their diplomas was especially piercing.


  • Next year will be the Snork Maiden’s graduation.

We came home, had lunch, and I lay down on the couch with a book.  I napped there, woke up, drank some water, crawled into bed, and pretty much stayed there the rest of the day, alternating reading and sleeping.  She borrowed the car around 7 and went to see a friend; I eventually got up and wrote for a while.  When she came home, I went back to bed.

I do feel rested today, so that’s good.

Natasha and other stories

Oh!  I have been meaning to mention that Natasha is moving on at the end of this year.  We have seen less of each other since the move to the new high school building–we’re two floors apart and use different faculty workrooms–but I’ll miss knowing her at work.  We’ll probably keep in sporadic touch through Facebook.  Her daughter left SA after eighth grade, and Natasha has been thinking of moving on for a while.  She had been moved out of teaching bio into chem, and had a pretty demanding teaching load overall, and I think didn’t feel very well treated in general.  The new gig is at a very small, newer school, where she’ll basically create their high school science curriculum and get to have new challenges that she’s actually excited about, instead of ones that are thrust upon her.

And of course we’re losing Lucinda. I got her a gift card from the department to the famous independent bookstore in her new city, and we circulated a card to give her at our regular end-of-semester department lunch together on Monday.  I’ve moved this from the hip restaurant with the bad parking (the last straw was when two people, one of them our new colleague, missed the lunch because of the parking situation) to a less glamorous, but still pretty nice, deli with a huge menu and a liquor license.  We’ll see how people like the new venue.  There are other places we can try next time if it’s not quite right.

Playing for time

It’s weird how the rhythm of the days changes during exam week, especially now that most students have one exam rather than two per day (a recent change and a good one).  There’s an hour or two in the morning of hallways swarming with students, unexpected colleagues showing up to proctor, bits of year-end and ongoing business conducted.  Then two hours of total quiet during an exam, followed by a noisy but brief exodus.  There are still pockets of activity ’round the building, and the offices hum along more or less as usual, but you never know whom you’ll see, or when, or where.

The Snork Maiden is catsitting for a teacher who’s off grading APs, so after today’s exam (her last, as she took two APs and doesn’t have finals in those classes) she went to feed the cat and clean the litterbox.  The cat is very shy, so subtraction from the food bowl and addition to the litterbox are the evidence of the cat’s existence.  Meanwhile, I finished up some tasks at school before meeting Stubb for lunch to celebrate the end of exams for the Snork Maiden (okay, not totally, as she is taking SAT subject tests on Saturday).  And to say goodbye to Stubb, too, as he goes off to his summer gig.  The Snork Maiden will go visit him toward the middle of July and do some college visits.  Yes, she’s about to be a senior, which seems perfectly natural and also COMPLETELY IMPOSSIBLE.

I have a busy-ish weekend, but no grading until Monday.

Summer world

Like What Now?, I’m starting to feel a bit summery.  It began today after school; I’d returned the last batch of papers to my sophomores, the building was quieter than usual, the usual stream of email had shrunk to a trickle.  A three-day weekend ahead, some tasks on the to-do list but nothing I absolutely had to take home with me.  We have review and the beginning of exams next week, and because of the AP classes, I will only give exams to two classes and have 31 tests to grade.  I’m sure I will falter when I first sit down with them, but really, that is not a lot of grading to do!

I got the summer-reading feeling first, the urge to plunge into a new book, with enough time to get absorbed in it.  I tucked a copy of Purple Hibiscus into my bag; I’ve been meaning to read it for years, ever since Elinor read it and declared it wonderful but too intense to assign to our tenth-graders.  I know that other schools have adopted it, though*, and SA itself is different than it was when Elinor was there; I’ll see what I think.

(*I believe Elinor actually teaches it at her current school; did I tell you, though, that she’s moving?  We were in touch because there was a slight possibility she’d come back to SA, but she and her husband really wanted the Pacific Northwest, and that’s where they’re going.)

The Snork Maiden and I had planned to go to the movies with FLS, but FLS wasn’t feeling up to it, which gave us a quiet evening at home.  I was fine with that as we have a fair bit of social stuff going on this weekend, the last one before Stubb leaves for his summer gig.  Definitely yoga–haven’t been this week. And Stubb and I will be away overnight Saturday to celebrate both our birthdays, which fall on either side of that departure.

So now to write a little, and then off to bed with a book!

Horse latitudes

FLS directed me to a site I really enjoy–The Final Wager, by Keith Williams, a Jeopardy! champion who analyzes the wagering in each day’s Final Jeopardy! round in both a post and a short video.  Once I watched his basic introduction-to-wagering videos, I was able to follow his strategy in the daily posts, and it’s definitely improved my understanding of what a good wager is.  I don’t always get to see the show, but I’ve been reading Keith’s posts for several weeks now.  In the videos, he stands before a small whiteboard (we can hear the TV offscreen) and calculates the wagers with colored Expo markers before un-pausing the TV and playing the FJ question along with the players.  Although his demeanor is typically pretty even-keeled, it’s fun to see how much he is still engaged with the show, more than a decade after winning the College Championship–how fresh the enjoyment of it still is.  (Which I guess is true of all of us who have been watching the show for decades, even if only intermittently.)

Friday’s game featured some truly terrible strategy on the part of the returning champion, who was behind, had a chance to catch up on Daily Doubles but bet very small, and then all three players made completely wrongheaded bets–like, even could tell they were bad.  They didn’t change the outcome from what it would have been if they had all made good bets, but all three of them bet badly, and it hit Keith hard.  Here’s the whole thing, but this is what happened: When one of the bets was revealed, he threw the remote across the room.  When the leader’s bet–which didn’t even cover a correct answer by the second-place person–was revealed, he sighed deeply, capped the green Expo marker, dropped it on the floor, capped the red one, dropped it, and turned to the camera: “OK, well, I think tonight I officially announce my retirement, ’cause no one is paying attention to me, and, uh, you know…I don’t know how much I can deal with this anymore.”

This is how teachers feel in March before spring break.

Blue shoes and happiness

Getting toward the end of Major English Poem, or rather, of the parts we’re reading.  It’s been a lot of fun!

There has been a lot going on, as there usually is at this time of year, but it’s mostly the usual stuff. We had the “family meeting” with the Snork Maiden’s college counselor, although it was interrupted a couple of times, including by a surprise fire drill, and I ended up having to leave for class before we were done.  However, the “college process” is now officially under way, and the Snork Maiden has a few action items to pursue–questions to research, decisions to make about next year’s courses, and so on.

I am reading a batch of poetry explication papers from the AP Lit students. Some of them are really good!  Some of them read, as Alison Bechdel had her professor character in Dykes to Watch Out For, Sydney, say, like they were “randomly typed by chimps.”  I am going to ask some of them to revise.

There are only four weeks left until spring break.  This seems wrong, somehow!



But why should I be dragging my feet so much about completing applications for summer residencies?  I will do myself the courtesy of assuming it’s not pure laziness.  Something is snagging me and if I think I know what it is, I can move forward.  (I have about two hours left this afternoon before I have to venture out to run a couple of errands on the way to pick up the Snork Maiden.)

Possibility: Is it long-shot-application syndrome–the reluctance to sink time and effort and commitment into applying, knowing that the odds are against getting it?  That’s often been in play, but the process has paid off a few times–not in the last several years, true, but enough that I know that the long shot sometimes finds its target.  Still, it’s not pleasant to get all worked up over something when you know the odds are against it.

Course of action: Focus on what’s in my control: completing the application as well as possible (and on time, of course).  Small, manageable goals (I already have a checklist of tasks: update CV, revise statement, etc.).

Possibility: Am I avoiding the never-psychologically-comfortable condition of explaining why I am so very deserving of these opportunities, how much I need the time and peace they provide?  Poor-mouthing is unpleasant, but necessary in this process to some extent.  And I know I’m never satisfied for long with one narrative of my life–there’s always some part of me that knows there’s more to the story, another way of telling it.

Course of action: Treat it like any other writing task.  Think about this audience, this story. Make the best case for why, this time, it should be me.

These seem like the two most likely roadblocks–I really can’t think of any others right now unless you count the problem of sitting, and that is addressed by stretching and standing.  All right, here we go again.