Days where I don’t have anything to say are why I stop posting 100% of the time. I’ll have a streak going and then find myself without anything worth saying—it doesn’t stop me offline so it shouldn’t stop me here. Power through and all that Jazz. So, here’s what’s on my mind right now:
Got a Grove box yesterday with basics like minty soap and mintier toothpaste.
The weather went from wet to low 70’s & it’s beautiful.
I feel like I’m actually edging my way out of the total darkness—it’s still a little grim, but I’m alive and that’s a blessing.
I miss teaching in the classroom.
My tennis shoes are looking at me like, go for a walk. This week’s poor excuse is the street work in front of my house and hills.
Reading the Newsflesh series and more romance novels. Glancing through the news for good articles to read and discuss.
I have too many boxes to break down and stack up. I just let them collect. This may be some weird packrat pathology tied to my wide streaks of laziness and procrastination. I can feel my goddaughter judging me.
I got to the point where I made a ridiculous number of playlists that are all eclectic, but I tend to listen to “Utter Silliness” the most. I had my playlist problem under control for months.
I think I’ll go to the six-feet away cocktail hour a block down today. I am really missing my friends and this way I can catch up with a few. Texts just aren’t the same as a table full of people I adore down at The Great Pacific.
Love the maps by @alfred_twu on twitter. It’s fascinating to watch the states come together or drift apart.
Do some people not think about how much worse this pandemic would be without all the social distancing? I keep thinking about my folks, my friends who are immune-compromised, and I also think about how much I want things “back to normal” already. I just fall into the camp that thinks there will another new normal and no return to the old normal.
I’m trying not to obsess too much about the things that freak me out.
I have got to renew things soon and finish small projects. I also have to finish a couple of big projects.
I hope this finds you well (especially if you took the time to read this). Most of my posts end up with one to three views which makes it harder to stay motivated. This time around, I just keep reminding myself the only way to get better is to practice. At least my head is a little lighter.
Enjoy the boys; two minutes after this picture they were not so friendly. What is it with cats and their need to be on clean clothes?
March 12, 2020 was the start of a weird time in the lives of me and mine. I went to bed with a killer migraine and woke up late Friday morning (a very rare sick day) to the news that Governor Brown was shutting down schools for a few weeks and that’s turned into a strange new life for many of us. I was aware of Covid-19 as it shut down parts of China, South Korea, and Italy. I watched it creep closer as Wildhorse and Nixyaawii Community School shut down for sterilization. We all watched.
April 13, 2020 began a new round of adjustments. Supplemental material shifted to skill-building for grades and chasing down assignments. Many seniors struggled with the abrupt end to their year and the loss of various rites of passage. The rest of the students have been figuring out how to manage home expectations, a range of very real emotions, and juggling all their online classes. It’s no easier for students than for teachers. We are all figuring out how to make things work, how to keep students practicing & learning new skills so they are ready for next year—not that we know what that will look like. I like to think we will be back in the classroom.
Those who know me know I don’t operate well with too much free time (makes it easier to sympathize with some of my students).
I can’t even count the books I’ve read since March 13—I have been a little surprised at my genre choices. Right now, I am impressed by the eerily prescient work of some speculative fiction authors. The apocalypse has been my jam as a Gen-Xer and sci-fi fan—who doesn’t remember those totally useless nuclear bomb drills (head under the desk) in grade school? The end of the known world was around the corner every year, but it never quite happened. The world was a scary place that got scarier every year and we lived through it all, but not all our friends did. We used dark humor, because we would’ve drowned in tears and fear if we didn’t laugh.
Looking at my Gen-Z students as they watch the world change around them in a syrupy slow speed that feels like being pulled into tomorrow by a superhero speedster, they already understand. Millennials spent the last decade being told they are the reason for society’s failures thanks to avocado toast, board games, and not having the money to buy this or that. Now Gen-Z is being told to suck it up or how easy they have it; every “pass” they are getting is going to come with a high price.
I don’t know. It’s been a minute and I’m trying to stop vomiting my thoughts all over twitter. I have not been keeping up on my writing, so hopefully each post gets better with practice and repetition. Practice what I preach, right?
I hope this finds you all well. I hope this helps me find the focus I lost sometime in the last few years.
As many of my students will remember, I’m big on bringing up current events, history, and moments of major change to inform our understanding of the fiction and nonfiction we address in various classes. I’ve been adding to my Contemporary Era section which has meant reading quite a bit of news and digging up related, interesting information (not all of which makes it into the Miscellany—my 300+ pages document covering everything I think is important for my students to know in order to be well-rounded, critical thinkers).
The news over the last couple of weeks has prompted this latest revision. I try to keep my bias to minimum and I try to be accurate in how I word my notes so that I can be accurate with the information I give my students and the directions I point them toward for finding additional information.
I’m sure there are some errors in this section of notes (typos and facts), so please feel free to let me know where to look or what you know that I might want to include in this document.
Thank you to anyone who takes the time to read through my Contemporary Era notes. Thank you to anyone who drops me a line on WordPress, Instagram, Twitter, or via email.
A few years ago, I struggle to articulate the fundamental difference between the concepts of niceness and kindness–they are not straight synonyms. This year, my classes keep coming back to equality and individual freedoms. Both my juniors and my seniors have had multiple discussions discussions about equality, reparations for various groups whose ancestors were poorly treated by the US government, privilege, modern racism and prejudice, and class issues.
Equality is the idea that we should all be given the same rights and responsibilities. This generally falls apart in execution due to all of the factors that keep us from being the same. Equality and sameness are not interchangeable, but the way many people discuss equality makes it seem like they are.
“We know all men are not created equal in the sense some people would have us believe–some people are smarter than others, some people have more opportunity because they’re born with it, some men make more money than others, some ladies make better cakes than others–some people are born gifted beyond the normal scope of most men.”
Atticus Finch’s closing argument: Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird (274)
Kurt Vonnegut also discussed equality versus sameness in his 1961 short story “Harrison Bergeron” (which I teach every couple of years). If we can all acknowledge what Lee and Vonnegut were getting at, then I hope we can dial down on the inherent idea that we are owed anything for existing. Even hard work, extreme dedication, and a core of steel cannot guarantee us success in school or in life. Bad thing happen to good people and good thing happen to bad people which pulls me to the story of Job (yes, the one from The Bible).
Do my rights matter more than anyone else’s?
Do my needs matter more than anyone else’s?
Living in community requires a give-and-take. Sometimes that mean making reparation for the crimes of our government or our ancestors and sometimes it means working to make sure that the playing field of life is a well maintained as possible. Human nature dictates that we will never be equal in practice. What I take from these stories is that why things are the way they are matters less than how I treat others in the here and now.
I’m not sure what inspired me today, but my poetry students have started their big project. For three weeks, they write and write and write. While it’s admittedly cool to see a poem spring forth fully formed and almost perfect, it is not the reality we (writers) face. Today, I got to see one of my students as she worked hard on a poem–ideas, snatches of phrases and images, attempt after attempt to get four perfect lines. When she showed me those four lines, I got chills.
I love teaching people to think, to communicate in different ways–I love seeing the lightbulb go off above their heads.
In 1997, as I finished my first school year, I started a page of Notes to Myself–things to consider over the summer and as I planned/taught the next year. I’ve been putting together a collection of everything I think it’s important for my students to know crossing all four years of high school and incorporating information from every class I’ve taught. It’s been through countless formats, broken into separate pieces, brought back together again. Currently, I’m adding notes for The Great Gatsby and To Kill A Mockingbird. For a long time I called it my English Bible, but I don’t want people to get the wrong idea…
I’m over 300 pages of notes on stories, poems, films, television shows, and brief bits of general information about important people (scientists, icons, iconoclasts, and authors). People tend to look at me like I’m crazy when I pull out the binder it’s all housed in (or when I try to show them the 300+ pages on my phone). Some people think having this miscellany of information makes me well-organized (I’m not). Some people think it all makes me OCD (I’m really not).
I am a lover of stories, the things that inspire them, the people that influence them, the times that shape them. I love seeing how things ripple.
So, my house is a little cute post-WWII boom house. All of my neighbors have more cars than they have driveway for…
Six or seven years ago when my back yard neighbors moved in, they had a Round-Up party that included a live, loud band in their back yard well past one in the morning. It started a steady level of loathing that might have led to me inappropriately shrieking at them from my back yard around midnight a year later. I can totally acknowledge I lost my shit out of sheer frustration and it did no good.
Unfortunately for me, the back yard situation works like an amphitheater which means all the noise drifts up my back hill—I used to think they were loud on purpose, then I figured out the amphitheater factor. Although a few of their guests (who maybe remember the one time I list my shit over five years ago?) get really loud with yips and whoops and what-not.
My current problem is that my migraines have leveled up about the same time their parties are leveling up. I’m sure they are fine people. They clearly have a solid social circle and they like to get together—I can respect that (and the Prozac helps). I don’t think they are horrifyingly obnoxious on purpose 84% of the time (this is growth on my part). I just hate that I have to close my back door (the only one with a screen) and my bedroom windows on nice nights to limit how much I hear. For example, I shut my curtains tonight to limit other people seeing into my bedroom and limit the brightness from the fire they always have going. I love looking out my windows at night. I love being able to feel the breezes and general sounds of the town, but I don’t want any clarity on what my neighbors and their guests talk about. I already hear far more than I want to.
It’s not that late, but I’m tired and my audiobook volume is a little louder than normal. My cats aren’t thrilled because the curtains block their view. My head hurts. And suddenly I’m thinking about how much it’s going to cost to get the tree cut back a bit and where I’m going to magically find the money…adulting isn’t often awesome or something I’ve excelled at recently.
They haven’t changed—thankfully I gained some sanity when I got on a good anti-depressant and was able to easily acknowledge I’m not a factor for them.
I am pretty sure they’ll appreciate me if I can afford to get the tree trimmed, because those leaves are a bit much in the fall and I haven’t felt nearly enough guilt about how many leaves end up in their back yard (which is super passive aggressive and petty).
I could come up with a list of excuses, some of them reasonable (most of them not). Anyone who takes the time to look back through my archive can see my spotty history with posting. I’m not sure if I can successfully make a habit out of it, but every time I fail is another chance to try again. After all, I’ll never get better at writing if I don’t do it regularly and push myself to get better at communication.
We are in week two of the new semester and I’m teaching poetry again. I love poetry.
I can admit that last semester was not by best by a wide margin. And, again, I could come up with a list of valid reasons that would just end up being excuses. I don’t want to excuse myself—I just need to do better.
Towards that end has come my challenge to my poetry students. I am asking them to write every day for fifteen minutes outside of school. There are no points for this. However, I know the stability and growth that will come to the ones who do it (and I’m doing it with them). The rules are easy:
Find a place to write
Try to stick to the same time of day
Set a timer for fifteen minutes
Write about whatever in whatever format
It’s going to take awhile to get back into a rhythm. Although, that holds true for most of the things I’d like to focus on for the next few months.