Got Wired?

KittyWithLaser So last week I left off grading Morning Pages process papers midway through and decided to finish them first thing this morning. In an attempt to subdue the Kitty with Laser that resides upstairs, I determine to note distractions, instead of pursuing them, using Peabrain. I send myself no fewer than four SMS between 9:32 and ten minutes later when I can resist distractions no more and begin this blogpost. It’s the last straw that always sends me blogging. Too many things inspire. Too many things connect, in my head anyway, to resist stirring whatever pot seems available. Writing always has been my response. Kitty and I wonder if it always will be my drug of choice or if there are other, more interesting and creative ways of staying alive, faking sane.
The texts2self include a title to research and write whether it exists already or not; a note to call cousin about our twin iPads’ first coos; and two messages about an article I’d like to write and submit to the Chronicle about a student-managed writing practice that makes my life at this point in the semester not just possible, but pleasurable, perhaps even satisfying. Back to reading. But first, a call to HR! My peabrain vibrated. Um, I mean a reminder just appeared on my phone…

End of Semester Blues

Full of anticipation for Spring Break, I enter what I fantasize will be the last leg of the grading relay only to notice myself idly surfing the web about an hour after confirming an act of plagiarism in the first student’s paper. We are both only human.

Having shifted directions psychologically, I am now running into the wind, instead of experiencing the tailwind I’d hoped for. Must soldier on. Why does it seem to take so much out of me every time this happens? Why do I persist in the notion that kids educated in Vegas get ethics lessons along with their Three Rs? This kid from the Bronx didn’t.

Why do I continue to believe that what is written in the syllabus, is not only read and understood, but translates the very same semester into actionable knowledge? What will it take for me to allow patience to have her perfect work and appreciate in theory and in practice the great wisdom popularized by Mark Twain but earliest attributed to the timeless Sufi teacher Mulla Idris Nasrudin:

Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.

While I recover, I jot notes for the first lecture in the Preparatory Composition class that begins after break, new swimming metaphor and all. I write this blog entry in lieu of feeding the hunger that is only 30% emotional, reactive. I call my husband who today is just around the corner, wondering if he’s up for lunch, beautiful day that it is, despite the internal and dispersing clouds.

Leaning Into Spring Break

It always happens yet I cannot understand it. Every semester, in the last week or so, I begin building the assignments and activities for the next. I do it to the exclusion of everything else – sleeping and grading current students’ final submissions as well. I think it has something to do with ‘leaving for America’. Perhaps that’s a bit too convenient. Perhaps it is simply a defense mechanism to delay my encounter with this cyclical reality: I will miss my students. If ever there were a time I am reminded of my feet of clay, powerlessness over my own addiction to exhaustion, this is it.

If I’m So Happy…

A funny thing happened while preparing for this evening’s Women’s Ministry class at 4:15 this morning. Among other things, I took the Joy Bubble Quiz in chapter three of Choosing Simplicity and found I’ve got enough joy to place me in the top third of respondents. Then, I reflected on how different today looked and felt compared with yesterday, in which I was sure had I lived anywhere but in the desert, I would have found a bridge to jump off of though all appearances indicated a successful, meaningful life. Alternating bouts of curiosity, faith and exhaustion keep me hanging around. But that’s the subject of another post. This one is about a question that so piqued my interest that I text it to myself for later (now) consideration. Not only did I decide to revise the key question so it was about my teaching life, but I decided to share the exercise publicly.

Key Question: As an educator, how do I want to spend my time, talent and outcomes?
 Who will serve as my accountability partner?

Funnier still, when I read the question this morning, it seemed there was no end of answers, ideas, and energy for classroom-related responses. Now that I look at it again with you, an unnamed, unknown public looking over my shoulder, I can’t seem to think of a single response. Maybe it’s time of day. Maybe the afternoon slump is having it’s way with me. Maybe since I turned off the classical piano in iTunes radio I’ve lost steam. Maybe grading those process papers was more than I could bear. Bingo! Maybe that’s the beginning of my answer – what I don’t want to spend my time doing.

I don’t want to spend my time grading papers. Something about it doesn’t seem quite right at least as far as I’ve reached in 20 years of its practice. I’ve tried ‘strengths-finding’, positive regard, writing two appreciations for every ‘correction’ offered, and it still feels like ick. I no longer even want to think about it. I used to find it at least mildly interesting to search for new approaches but now, time is more precious than ever and I’d rather do other things with it. Or, at least, that’s what my fingers are saying at this moment. What my feet, eyes and mind do when no one else is looking however is another story entirely.

I don’t do things that I tell myself I’d rather be doing when I’m not grading papers. I thought I’d rather be putting the final edits into the collection of letters my Father wrote my Mother when an ocean separated them for most of my third year on planet Earth. That binder has been sitting at the corner of my desk for the better part of this month.

I tell myself I’d rather make a quilt for the upcoming baby shower. I even fantasized about asking the proud soon to be parents for an article of clothing each to include in said quilt. But in fact, I picked fabrics out of my basket, measured the batting, and paired the non-squares I was going to use for the last newborn at the end of the last year, and still haven’t moved the pile from the corner of the room in which it collects dust. Twice a day if not more, I pass by the open closet that keeps my sewing machine safe from use.

So, if I’m not doing what I want, and not doing what I have to, what am I doing? Molting? Wasting time? Growing underground? And, should anything be done about it? Mike Dooley, my much admired, secret and virtual mentor and author of Notes From the Universe, would have a good answer to that question I’m certain. Until I get up the gumption to ask Mike, however, I’ll just keep blogging along.

BTW, I did conduct background research for a thesis I’ll be reading / advising, and decide to use Project Happiness‘ 7 Doors as the outline for the bookless Preparatory Composition course that’s due to start after Spring Break. Attempting neither is small potatoes when one steps back and looks at the range of choices available to someone interested in Critically Reflective Teaching and learning though situated in the compromised context of turbo capitalism with the resulting subtle and aggressive oppressions aimed at our lives. I guess what my eyes, mind and heart do when no one’s looking isn’t so bad. Guess I am happy after all.

The Fat Lady Singing

Beethoven makes wonderful music for grading portfolios. The Berlin Symphony Orchestra’s rousing rendition of his 5th symphony, now playing on iTunes radio, provided the perfect balance of light and heat to enable me to salvage something praise-worthy in an otherwise lackluster (by comparison to those most recently read, though splendid in comparison to this specific student’s previous work) Legacy. Though extremely slow-going, the grading of portfolios is perhaps my favorite part of the semester. Students prove to themselves in the process of writing an introductory letter (their Legacy) to incoming students, what and how they’ve mastered course objectives during the semester. We lose more than a few along the way yet retain enough to forgive the casualties if such a thing is required or possible. Everyone can learn – perhaps not on my watch – but I have it on good authority that I am a teacher who cares enough to support learners to achieve the high standards transformative learning requires.