Monday, August 24, 2015

First Day of School

Today was the first day of school; I had one class of seniors, and two Concurrent Enrollment classes. Tomorrow I'll have another two sections of seniors and one class with 10th graders. I found myself nervous, though, because I have little idea of how to actually interact personally with 12 graders. I know how to create lesson plans, and I know which novels and writing exercises I'll be using this year, but I've never taught seniors before and I wanted to make a good impression.

When my first period class came in, I said that there were the usual classroom expectations: Be kind, be respectful, raise your hand, etc. Then I asked the seniors two questions, which I had them answer anonymously on a sheet of paper that I had them turn in before they leave: What would make the class less terrible, and what do they expect from me as a teacher. Most said that they wanted to be respected, and treated like adults. They wanted the material to mean something, not be mindless; a few noted they wanted to be able to ask for help. Several said they wanted to be able to listen to music while they worked, or at the end of class when the work was done; others said they wanted me to realize that they have other classes and other responsibilities; that they don't want to be here. In other words, they want to be understood and be recognized as the adults. I'll have an easier time with the sophomores, whom I had met this past Friday during their Orientation. (I have a 10th grade homeroom as well as a 10th grade English class.) I can be silly with them and that seems to be the way to get and keep their attention.

Yesterday I discovered that I could set up a message and/or an e-mail to all my students and their parents and have the message be sent at a certain time, so I set up an announcement for all my classes, and included course syllabi. I think it was a good move; by 7:20 this morning I heard from one parent of a 10th grader who told me that my class was all her son could talk about when he came home from Friday's Orientation, and that my e-mail this morning impressed her even more; she said some very much appreciated things this morning.

Another parent told me that his son would pretend to be too cool to be in class, but that the son secretly loved science fiction and would probably die a bit inside while reading Pride and Prejudice, but he'll survive, "in spite of Austen's complete refusal to use dragons, knights, or wizards." (I responded that this gave me the idea that students could choose excerpts and rewrite them into their favorite genre - that maybe the novel would be improved with dragons. The parent unequivocally agreed.) And a third teacher thanked me for having the course website that I planned to use, noting that it's helpful to notifying parents of due dates and homework.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Adventures with Souvenirs

I'm not sure how many guarantees there are when it comes to marriage: Some people date for years before getting married, and have good luck, while others don't; others date for seemingly days and stay happily married for decades, while others don't. I'm not sure there's anything one thing one can do to guarantee a happy marriage.

Being Catholic, Ed and I attended a Pre-Cana Engaged Encounter retreat, a weekend meant to get us talking about what turned out to be pretty much all the things we had already discussed: finances, living arrangements, careers, parents, procreation, etc. Oddly, while birth control was discussed, it was only in the confines of the rhythm method. There was zero discussion about planning for children otherwise in terms of timing, the number of children, infertility, financial discussions relating to children, who would stay home - things that I think would be good for us and other couples to have talked about more - but there was  absolutely no discussion about these topics whatsoever. As such, we found the weekend not a good use of our time (as I wrote here and here). 

What turned out to be as helpful, perhaps even more so, in many cases, was that we traveled together before we got married. We had begun planning a trip to Stockholm, Tallinn, and Helsinki before we got engaged, but traveling after the fact put us into close quarters with each other, where things could ostensibly go wrong in three countries where neither of spoke the language. While I believed that I could marry Ed and be happy, it was this trip that confirmed this.

And not for nothing, a lot of it had to do with our having the same interests and wanting to check out the same things, while being open to seeing things that we might not want to see if the other person had an interest. Sine we both like eating, we were able to have some good meals without worrying that the other person was going to be a picky eater.  In other words, it came down to flexibility, shared interests, and an interest in the other person's interests as well. It's okay if I want to see one more church, and it's okay if Ed wants to see All the Things in a museum. 

We've been married for just over four years now - not an especially long time, but long enough to get into a groove when it comes to traveling. We do our research ahead of time; we tend to want to see the same things. If one of us needs to slow down or take a break, it's not an issue.

This also means that many of our souvenirs are things we share, mostly relating to books on places we've visited, or Christmas ornaments (because we like having ornaments of places we've visited), or posters for the wall. We used to only buy flat things (like books and small posters) or small things that were easily packed in our luggage. Then we realized that all the places we were visiting had these things called post offices - or, in at least two cases, Mailboxes, Etc. - and that we could mail things home. Since many tourist places offer international shipping, things often work out really well in those cases, too. 

Sometimes, though, interesting things happen. (I'm using "interesting" fast and loose here.)

Our most recent trip was to Ireland and Northern Ireland; we started in the west of Ireland, and drove north up through Northern Ireland, stopping at the Giant's Causeway and Belfast, before driving south to Dublin, where we spent the last week of our trip. We noticed that the Giant's Causeway ship offered international shipping, so we bought some things, filled out a form, and was told that we'd be called once they figured out international shipping costs in order to get our okay, and ship things. We gave them our address, phone number, and my e-mail address. Foreign addresses are always a bit wonky, so we made sure to confirm all information before we went on our merry way.

It took them more than a week to get to the post office; after several calls back and forth, we finally connected with the correct people, who were finally able to tell us the shipping charges. Then we got another call saying that they couldn't read our e-mail address in order to send us the tracking number. (We cared less about that and more that our package was actually shipped.)

Today our package arrived. Both my first name and last name were misspelled (which I care less about; outside of Poland, it's a weird name), as was the name of the town in which we live. And instead of writing out Utah, or abbreviating it correctly, VT (the abbreviation for Vermont) was used. So ultimately the package was sent to Micelle Szetella in West Jordon, VT.

Somehow the post office still got it to us. 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Avoiding Political Debates

Apparently there are several thousand would-be candidates seeking the Presidential candidacy these days. Last night was the first in what I can only assume will be dozens of televised political debates. I tend to avoid political debates for a number of reasons:
  • One of the simplest reasons is that I don't pay attention to airdates. Very rarely do I watch live TV; we have TiVo, so I fast forward through ads and usually miss announcements for these sorts of things.
  • I don't find them especially interesting. I have a limited (probably short) attention span, and can only listen to people talk for 45 minutes or so because I need to refocus my attention. 
  • On a related note, I need to stop and think a lot. I process things more slowly when a lot of talking is involved. If a debate involves the printed word, I can take my time and ruminate, perhaps do some research and educate myself, etc. I enjoy reading fact checking articles, regardless of political affiliation. (The first Republican debate was last night; once the Democrat debates are televised, I'll enjoy reading those fact checking articles as well.)
  • Because I'm a ignorant lout, I prefer to focus on specific parts of debates that relate to things that I do know and care about, mostly issues relating to social justice issues and educational reform. Foreign policy, the environment, and many other matters are as important, and I recognize their significance, but I do not have the mental capacity to do extensive research on every potential issue and become knowledgable about each matter. Therefore, I often tend to judge and vote for candidates on education reform and social justice issues, since those are the topics on which I place higher importance.
  • To paraphrase Grandpa Simpson, these sorts of debates just kinda angry up the blood. The moment I encounter a candidate personally insulting an individual or group, as far as I'm concerned, that candidate has lost my vote. There's a difference between criticizing an idea and criticizing a person; many people are not good at differentiating.