This is how you lose her

One theme of the school year so far–and perhaps this is part of why I’ve been absent–is the Snork Maiden’s senior year, which I am finding profoundly moving.  All the senior rituals and experiences, but now she’s among the students having them.  Driving to school with her and being sharply aware that next year she won’t be in the car.  (I was going to write “next year I’ll be driving alone,” but actually it’s fairly likely that I’ll carpool with someone once my schedule no longer has to accommodate hers.)

And, of course, the college process.  It has gone pretty smoothly so far. The key factor for her has been that she has a pretty specific idea of the area she wants to work in, and that’s done a lot to shape her search. She visited a few schools that seemed like great places, just not right for her, and that helped her keep perspective about how it’s a decision on both sides, not just them judging you.  The places she’s applying to are places that she’s enthusiastic about. The SA counselors encourage students who are ready to do one or more early applications, and there are a lot of schools that offer non-binding early answers, so she applied to the school she thinks is her top pick and also to another one she is interested in, and got in to both.  The second one offered her a merit scholarship; she’ll learn more about financial aid for both of them in January, and she’s planning to go to an admitted students event for Top Pick in February.

It’s been interesting to see the process from the parent side.  I didn’t know about the official and unofficial Facebook groups that spring up for admitted students–the Snork Maiden joined the official one and one for admitted students in her specific major, which will be maybe 40-50 first-years after regular admissions is complete. Right now it’s about 20 students and they’re already bonding and sharing information. She already feels very committed to the school. I’m conflicted: the school does seem like a good fit for her, but I’d like her to keep an open mind about the others she hasn’t heard from yet, and the question of aid is also very much in play.

One thing I do support is her going to the admitted students event, even though I know it will exert a lot of recruiting pressure and she will likely come home even more sold on the place than before (well played, Top Pick, to have it before the regular decisions come in).  Top Pick is in a cold place, and she should know what February feels like there.



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!


…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).




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.