Friday, December 16, 2016

Professional Activities That Miss The Point

I've been reading old Ask a Manager posts in which people share stories about consistently bad team-building exercises - often ridiculous things like 10-mile hikes or other sporty activities; over sharing personal things ("Bring in a childhood picture!"); talking about one's family (often leading to a seemingly never-ending discussion about one's children, which makes it awkward for those who don't have children and might be sensitive about that, or have children who are deceased, or have complicated relationships with their children); scavenger hunts, being required to share personal stories.

These sort of forced activities seem to miss the point; I'd prefer to get to know my colleagues in a more natural setting, even if it's lunch. 

To be fair, I dislike forced socialization. Come to think of it, I'm not especially social anyway. I usually get enough socialization at work, and I'm minimally interested in going out on weekends or evenings.

I'm reminded of one of my recently-completed ESL licensing classes; at one point, we were all to bring in something that represents our culture, and it seemed like half the class brought it pictures of their kids, whom they then talked about at length to the exclusion of everything else, which kinda missed the point.

During a two-day required diversity training, four guest speakers came in to talk about different perspectives on culture; one Native American gentleman who was a district employee gave a really good talk; his dad had been a Navajo codebreaker during WW2. However, two of the guest speakers who were supposed to talk from a European-American perspective and a Hispanic perspective instead talked about being Mormon in Utah. Again, these speakers missed the point; their talks felt like evangelization. It would be like asking someone who lived in Rome -or worked in Vatican City - what it was like to be Catholic. I'm sure there are plenty of non-Catholics living in Rome, and perhaps even a few working in Vatican City, but the religious culture is so pervasive that it's necessary to discuss that element of it.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

"I'd invested a lot of time and effort into something that didn’t seem to be working."

This line struck a chord: "I was forty years old, and I’d invested a lot of time and effort into something that didn’t seem to be working." I was 39 when I finally teaching full-time.

I nearly decided to give up on teaching because I wasn't able to find a job for eight years across three states. I was subbing; I was adjuncting. I didn't want to do that for my entire life. I wanted my own health benefits; I wanted my own retirement fund. I kept being told, "So-and-so tried for 20 years before they found a job!" which didn't strike me as helpful or practical. I was tired of being rejected, and, really, there does come to be a point where one has to cut one's losses and move on.

But never once did I hear that it's okay to fail or redirect one's career, which I wish I would have heard: that it's okay to move on. I didn't want to be 65 and have no retirement. I decided during the summer of 2015 that if I didn't have a full-time teaching job by the time I had to renew my license, I would redirect my energies and find another career. There is a path, but it's not always a clear one, and sometimes that path changes.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Political Disenfranchisement

I suspect that this is more the result of the people I'm surrounding myself with, but I'm grateful not to be hearing too much vitriolic political spewing on either side on my particular social media feeds. I've  been quietly unfollowing or muting those whose feeds are predominantly ad hominem attacks on any political side, and I regularly prune my social media friends and followers for those who are capable of arguments that don't use straw man or ad hominem attacks.

I've heard little about "the liberal agenda," a phrase that always makes me picture a bunch of people staying up really late at night saying things likes, "How can I hurt people by offering more social and support services to those who might need it!? Mwahahahahaha!" "The liberal agenda" is a phrase that really ticks me off. I see this phrase uttered by people who subscribe to the belief that one's ideologies must be in complete in alignment with one particular political party. If you're only voting for someone based political party, you're overlooking nuances. I'm wary of the thinking one must follow and believe everything a political party or religious teaching dictates. It's okay to ask questions. It's okay to see the shades of gray.

I would really like to ask a Trump supporter what the appeal is, but I'm not sure I know any Trump supporters. I'd like to have a reasoned and reasonable discussion about it without being concerned with the possibility of personal attacks on any other candidate (namely Hillary Clinton) or myself for daring to ask for clarification. I'm seeing a lot of tu quoque attacks, which are admittedly easier than thinking critically about one's own preferred candidate.

I'll be glad when this election is over.

(As a post script: One of my favorite lines is from L. M. Montgomery's The Blue Castle: "Fear is the original sin. Almost all of the evil in the world has its origin in the fact that some one is afraid of something.")

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Grandma Bridget

Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of the death of my grandmother, Bridget Houlihan Hynes.

My 29-year-old grandmother in 1948
with my mother, age two.
I was very lucky: I got to know my grandmother as an adult, which is not something I take for granted; she died when I was 30. I was student teaching in New York City, and it would be less than a year before I'd graduate with a degree in English, one that would allow me to teach. Among other things, I was so disappointed she died when she did: I had really wanted a picture of my grandmother, my mother, and me - three generations of teachers.

My grandmother had been a math teacher at a time when it was an oddity for a woman to attend college for the first time as late as she did (I believe she was in her 40s, possibly her early 50s, when she began college). She received an undergraduate degree from Cedar Crest College and a master's degree from Lehigh University. My mom's father didn't have much formal education himself but thought that, if his wife wanted a few college degrees and teach, well, of course she should do just that. My grandmother retired in 1985 after teaching for ten years. As a means of comparison, I'm not sure my dad's parents finished elementary school.

Because I was going through a teacher education program at the time of her death, my grandmother and I would talk about teaching; I would tell her about my coursework and she would tell me about her experiences teaching, including her remembering being taught about how to lay out her classroom, even seating, which surprised her; she hadn't realized the importance of seating and things that, once you gain some experience, you put more thought into. She told me that she most enjoyed teaching 6th grade.

My grandmother died of cancer, and my mother, who lived locally, would stay with her on the weekends. My aunt Anne, who lived in upstate New York, would come down for one week to stay with and care for my grandmother; my mother would stay with and care for her on the weekends; and my uncle Patrick, who lived in Virginia, would stay with and care for her the next week. (In other words, my aunt and uncle alternated weeklong care while my mother covered the weekends.) My mother called me at 6 a.m. on the morning of Wednesday, October11, 2006, to tell me that my grandmother had died. 

I turned 40 in February, so I've been thinking about milestones lately. On my 30th birthday, I submitted the paperwork for the SUNY Urban Teacher Education Center, a program designed to allow students to fulfill their student teaching experiences in New York City. It took me nearly nine years to find a full-time teaching job, but at age 40, I was teaching full-time. In the meantime, I finished my undergraduate degree, got married, started and completed a graduate degree, started my teaching career, and began an ESL endorsement. I wish I could have shared these things with my grandmother.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

No More Adoption: Making the Decision to Stop Looking

Similar reasons are why Ed and I decided to stop trying to adopt. We're already on the cusp of "too old." It can take years to get matched, and in the meantime we could be spending our retirement savings going through home studies, medical tests, adoption agency hoops and fees, and so on. Neither of us wants to be a 50-year-old first-time parent to an infant. It can take years to be matched, and there comes a point where you just have to say, "Enough."

The emotional toll was excruciating. I am not being hyperbolic. It was painful and neither of us has it in us to go through that again. Adoption was, for us, extremely unpleasant and painful from the moment we decided to try until the moment we decided to just move on - which, conveniently, was on Mother's Day this year. I have no idea why we weren't chosen, and really, those reasons are unimportant; we are who we are. I am not willing to bankrupt ourselves, emotionally or financially, to have a child.

When I hear parents say they've never experienced love until they've had a child - although I've only ever heard mothers say this - I wonder if their lives were that empty to begin with. I understand that the love a parent has for his or her child is of a different variety altogether, but despite what I've heard other mothers say, our lives are not empty or without meaning, and we know exactly what love is, even without having a child. 

This is why I avoid talk about pregnancy experiences, doctors' visits, and pictures of newborns. I don't want platitudes, I don't want sympathy, and I really don't want to discuss our experience; I want to move on.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Teaching the Literary Canon

I read an article today about students from Yale University who wanted to "abolish the major English poets cycle and revise the remaining requirements 'to deliberately include literatures relating to gender, race, sexuality, ableism, and ethnicity.'" The author noted that she "was not arguing that while having only read white male authors or even 70 percent white male authors. But you cannot profess to be a student of English literature if you have not lingered in the slipstreams of certain foundational figures, who also happen to be (alas) both white and male" (para. 10).

The problem is, of course, is that the canon is not deviated as often as it should be. Teachers can be incredibly creative, but there are teachers who are also remarkably uncreative, who teach the same material in the same way for years on end, and don't think to vary their methods or materials. I do think there's value to teaching some of the canon, especially given that for such a long historical stretch, it was the wealthier white men who were able to write and publish to begin with - but people get stuck and ignore more contemporary writing but a wider range of authors.

Perhaps it's time to redefine what the "literary canon" encompasses - or widen that definition.

I ended this year by teaching my 10th graders a unit on short stories; it was a unit that included Langston Hughes (“Thank You, Ma’am”), Amy Tan (“The Rules of the Game,” which is an excerpt from The Joy Luck Club), Guy de Maupassant (“The Necklace”), Edgar Allan Poe (“The Cask of Amontillado”), Richard Connell (“The Most Dangerous Game”), Roald Dahl (“Lamb to the Slaughter”), Saki (“The Interlopers”), O. Henry (“The Gift of the Magi”), and James Hurst (“The Scarlet Ibis”). It’s a good cross-section of American (including African-American and Chinese-American) and European writers. In other words, there are a range of voices from different eras, featuring writers from different ethnicities and socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds.

It is, I hope, a good survey of writers that students wouldn't necessarily encounter, but I know that how we define "literary canon" could be reconstructed to include some of these authors as well: Poe tends to be covered in American Literature and Gothic circles; Langston Hughes was part of a group of artists heavily involved in the Harlem Renaissance; Amy Tan emphasizes Chinese-American experiences; Roald Dahl is known for his children's literature (James and the Giant Peach; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Matilda). And so on.

I'm reconsidering starting next year with this unit because it includes elements of literature and provides a background in literary devices, analysis, and writing techniques, but I'll need to think of how I can transition between this unit and draw connections to the next (possibly Greek mythology).

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Year Five

Another year has gone by - a good year with few emotional stressors. We're having a quiet weekend at home this weekend; tonight we'll go out to dinner at Teppanyaki. I did get some good anniversary gifts: CCCP Cookbook: True Stories of Soviet CuisineThe Oxford Companion to Foodand Insects and Flowers: The Art of Maria Sibyl Merian.I got Ed a molten sculptural bowl, a personalized hammera rustic wood sign, and "Be Thou My Vision" burned on barn wood, ("Be Thou My Vision" is an 8th century Irish hymn attributed to the Irish Christian poet St. Dallan. We heard this song at Mass shortly after we got engaged; I hadn't paid much attention so it but it caught Ed's ear, so I asked the guitarist who had performed it what the song was, and it became the song to which I walked down the aisle.) 

This is still my favorite wedding picture.

In July we went to Ireland for three weeks. We visited some of my cousins in western Ireland (in the Co. Limerick area), visited my parents (who live on the Co. Roscommon / Co. Leitrim border for part of the year), made our way north to the Giant's Causeway and Belfast, then drove down to Dublin for the last week of our trip. Early in our trip we were able to attend a Medieval Banquet in Dunguaire Castle which you can see in the background here. (Dunguaire Castle was the Hynes Clan castle; my mother was a Hynes, and when in Galway one can still see Hynes establishments. We therefore like to think of this as the family castle.) Just look past my dad photobombing an otherwise good picture.
From Ireland (2015)

Over the summer I had 13 job interviews, and I was finally offered a position at Copper Hills High School. (Lucky 13 - my interview at Copper Hills was the last interview and the only job offer. On a side note, I appreciated the very few schools that were kind enough to send me an e-mail telling me I wasn't a match. Most of the schools I didn't hear from at all.) This year I've been teaching 10th grade, 12th grade, and Concurrent Enrollment classes, which effectively means I teach the same things I would at Salt Lake Community College (Introduction to Writing) except I teach those things to high school students who are simultaneously high school and college students. It's going swimmingly - I like the school, my colleagues, and the students tremendously, and my official observations were very good - and I'll be back next year.

My nephew turned one in mid-April. It was just a little too far away for a weekend trip to celebrate Niall's first birthday, but we were able to FaceTime during the celebrations.

This will be a quiet summer; I'm teaching two summer classes at SLCC, and I'm not sure we'll do any traveling. If we do, it'll be domestic.

There's a lot of professional development ahead. I got two conference proposals relating to Concurrent Enrollment in high schools accepted, so I'll be presenting at the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association Convention in October (conveniently held in Salt Lake City), and the Modern Language Association Convention in January 2017 in Philadelphia. I'm also getting the related paper published, due out in Summer 2017. And with any luck, I'll be able to complete a Master's degree I started way back in 2007 but didn't complete.

Michelle & Ed's Wedding
from Michelle Szetela on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

How Can High School Teachers Become College Professors?

One of the blogs I regularly read is Confessions of a Community College Dean; a recent blog post in which he asked "How can high school teachers become college professors?" got me thinking, especially since I'm ensconced in teaching concurrent enrollment classes.

One of the biggest barriers I've seen - which is not to say that it's necessarily insurmountable, depending on experience and the facultyposition to which one aspires - is that many K-12 teachers have graduate degrees in education, as opposed to content matter. I think this can be a tremendous mistake. Teaching experience is gained by teaching - although I think taking education classes is immensely helpful as a pre-service teacher, and continuing professional development is key - but it's more difficult to gain that content mastery because of the amount of time one spends in a high school as a teacher; there simply isn't the same amount of flexibility as there is in the college world to travel to conferences, research, write, publish, or simply keep abreast of changing trends in one's subject matter.

If one wants to teach English, if one has an undergraduate degree in English but has a master's in education, the person hiring simply might not see how you have the advanced expertise necessary to teach English, even if you were a high school English teacher...unless you can show that you've taken some advanced courses in that subject matter.

This is what happened to me: I went to college later in life (I use the phrase loosely - I graduated with my B.A. in English when I was 31, in 2007), right when the economy collapsed on itself. I started but did not complete a graduate degree (which I have since done). Because of my extensive experience tutoring writing at multiple college writing centers, my mostly-complete master's degree in English with a concentration in rhetoric and the teaching of writing, and my formal teacher training, I found it exponentially easier to get a job adjuncting without the finished master's degree than I did finding a job teaching junior high or high school English, despite my being a licensed teacher. I adjuncted for a number of years in three different states, at both community colleges and universities (and in fact I was told I had gotten those CC jobs in part because I had attended and graduated from a community college myself; I would understand the culture from the students' perspectives).

In August 2015, eight years after having graduated with my B.A., I finally landed my first full time position teaching high school English; I was the first person to interview for this particular position, and was offered the job in part because of my college-teaching experience. My particular position requires me to teach concurrent enrollment (known in some circles as dual enrollment) through the same community college at which I've been adjuncting since 2012.

I did things backwards, in a sense, and certainly not the way most teachers seem to do it. I loved teaching at the community college and was about to just throw in the towel altogether - I was becoming cynical that I had put so much effort into trying to find a full-time teaching job in three states and having no luck.

I would in no way be able to recommend someone getting a graduate degree in education unless one is fairly certain that one wants to stay in the K-12 range, but this is just my perspective. I've appreciated the flexibility that comes with having a graduate degree in my subject matter.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Are We Done Yet?

Last summer, I was offered the opportunity to be part of a cohort that would be teaching Intermediate Writing at Salt Lake Community College (SLCC). I was offered four classes, which I was delighted to be offered, because at the time I didn't know I would be offered a full time position teaching English at Copper Hills High School. Once I was offered that full time position, I scaled back my SLCC availability, which I felt rather badly about, but I felt I had to prioritize a full-time position (benefits! a pension! an actual salary!) over one that was not.

Then, in the fall, I was asked if I'd consider taking classes for an ESL endorsement. The district would pay for it; the endorsement would be six classes and would take a year. Sure, I said, if you're footing the bill. Not a bad feather to have in my cap. Plus it's an additional 18 graduate credits that could be applied towards a salary lane change at the high school. (One can earn a raise by earning 30 graduate credits beyond one's graduate degree.)

Then, at about the same time, I was tracked down by the writing center director at Long Island University, where I had begun (but had not completed) a previous master's degree; the director said that since I only needed to finish a thesis, would I be interested in completing that, and she would be the primary reader? Sure, I said. It will definitely lead to a raise at the high school.

So I've been juggling a few things this year. but my various obligations are coming to an end. My thesis has been put on the back burner until this summer; I've made some good progress, but there are still some revisions that need to be done. I hope to be completed by December. And the ESL endorsement will be completed at about the same time. My adjuncting is also finishing up this week; next week our cohort has a post mortem. On Monday, there will be a month remaining of my enjoying my high school students.

In the past month I've had two colds and an ear infection. I'm still getting over one of those colds and the ear infection. I need a nap.

P.S.: I did agree to teach two summer classes at SLCC, mostly so that I'd have a summer income, and also so that I wouldn't become to bored I'd do something stupid like become a notary again. (A few summers ago, I was in fact so bored I became a notary. I'm not allowed to do that again. I didn't get to notarize anything because Ed wouldn't allow me to buy the nifty notary gear.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Having It All

I've been reading a lot of articles lately on "having it all" and "hitting the glass ceiling" and Equal Pay Day.

I'm still not sure what "having it all" means, nor am I sure that it's good to always get everything you want when you want it. I'd like to have a kid - that's probably not going to happen, although one can't guarantee something happening; I can either let it destroy me or I can do other things. I can watch my nephew grow up; I can pay attention to my students and hopefully have a few students I grow close to over the years. Perhaps if I wanted to work in business or another field, or wanted a supervisory position, or to be a school district superintendent, there would be additional pressures.

I work in an industry that doesn't differentiate pay based on anything other than education and experience. I can't speak to higher education; although I'll continue to adjunct as long as I can, I don't think I'll pursue a full-time job in high education. Within K-12 public education, there are salary schedules, so within that school district, one's education and one's experience is fairly easy to determine. It's not perfect; My experience part-time college teaching doesn't "count" as teaching experience. That said, this issue is not specific to me. Furthermore, education is education, although there are exceptions: A colleague recently mentioned that the Ph.D. he's working on might be difficult to prove because he's earning that doctorate in another country. However, my master's degree is not worth more than someone else's. In other words, the salary schedule is an equalizer.

I know a handful of people who do want those corner offices, or who do not consider themselves successful unless they have a certain salary. I'm happy with my job, partly because it's been a struggle to get any full-time job that I've liked. Neither Ed nor I are acquisitive, so perhaps we already have it all.

Monday, March 21, 2016

No Sympathy

It's amazing the amount of complaining people do. I also recognize the irony in complaining about people who complain a lot. Most of the time I'm quite sympathetic, since when we get used to doing things a particular way, especially if that way lets us be lazy, we tend to be disinclined to give it up. That said, regularly complaining about the following really bothers me:
  • I really have very little sympathy for people who "aren't morning people" and/or can't get to where they need to be on time. Very few people are morning people. "I'm not a morning person" is not a good reason to not get up when your alarm wakes you. Suck it up, and get moving. Go to bed earlier if you need to, and be the adult you are.
  • On a related note, one of the policies at the high school at which I teach is that if students miss a certain number of classes, or they're late a certain number of times, their grades are converted into NGs ("no grade"). This means they have to attend what's now called attendance school, but which when I was in high school would have been called detention. Students need to pay $5 per session, and if they're even a minute late, they can be denied entrance. (I've been running attendance school this year.) Since students need to pay at the front office, sometimes there are long lines, which means they haven't planned ahead, which means they're late, which means I don't let them in. Students get very frustrated when I turn them away, but if they were on time and/or had attended their classes to begin with, this wouldn't have been a problem. Skipping or being late to school literally does not pay.*
  • Grousing about having to be "with it" at the apparently agonizing early hour of 8 a.m. This is different if you work in an industry that requires working revolving hours, and/or if you're regularly scheduled to work evening or night hours (the medical, customer service, and hospitality fields come to mind, among others), in which case it really is a hassle to be up and with it at 8 a.m. But if your regular work hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or you have a schedule with flexibility, please be quiet.
  • Complaining about having 100 students. I started the year with more than twice that.
I respond to this in a slightly annoyed manner (which I generally keep to myself, except for this instance), because I get up at 6 a.m. five days a week so I can be at school ready to go an hour later. (Contract hours are 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.) I do not like getting up at 6 a.m., but the flip side is that 60% of the time, I'm home by 3:30 p.m. (Once a week I don't get home until 7:45 p.m. or later; once a week I don't get home until about 5:30 p.m.) This career entirely my choice and I will not complain about it, which is why I avoid people who complain about how difficult it is to be at work at 9 a.m. or later. If the hours don't suit you, perhaps it's time to find a job whose hours better reflect your ability to get there when you agreed to.

* In case you can't tell, I have a really hard time with chronic lateness; it's one of the things that drives me up the proverbial wall.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Teaching Loophole

Let's see what I can do to clarify an odd situation:

  • Since January 2010, I've been teaching English 1010 (Introduction to Writing) and English 2010 (Intermediate Writing) at Salt Lake Community College (SLCC). I've taught at the Jordan campus; the Taylorsville/Redwood campus (which is considered the main campus); a hybrid in which I taught at an American Express building, with part of the class being held face-to-face, and the other part was held online; and completely online.
  • I now also teach full-time at Copper Hills High School (CHHS). This year I teach 10th grade, 12th grade, and four Concurrent Enrollment (CE) classes (two per semester). This year, those CE classes are offered through SLCC; high school students who want to take these college classes apply for admission to SLCC, and then enroll in one of the English 1010 sections. 
  • So this particular year, I'm teaching English 1010 through CE at Copper Hills through a program offered by SLCC, and English 2010 at SLCC. I'm a SLCC adjunct who teaches both at a SLCC campus and at CHHS.
Today I learned I may be required to take a two-day training on teaching English 2010, since I'll be teaching 2010 at CHHS next year, even though I've been teaching 2010 at SLCC this year. The training coincides with the end of the summer session, which could be difficult given that I'll be teaching 1010 at SLCC this summer. The second day of the training would be held on the last day of my summer classes, and while one of the two classes I'll be teaching is entirely online, the other is a traditional face-to-face class that meets for nearly three hours twice a week, so I'm not sure how I'd swing that.

I'm hoping I can get the training waived altogether. I'll still need to take a two-hour training of an unknown variety, but this will be easier to fit into my schedule than a two-day training.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Meet the Parents

Earlier this week was our second round of parent-teacher conferences. The conferences earlier in the year tend to be busier than those held during the second half of the year; parents want to come meet the teachers,whom they don't know and tend to do so earlier in the year, although I did have some parents make a second visit today.

I wonder how much of a disservice we do our students/children when we panic because for the first time they don't have a perfect 4.0. I absolutely want my students to do their best as often as they're able, but I also want them to learn that it's not possible to do become an expert in everything they do throughout their lives; I want them to be able to handle doing poorly (however it is that's defined) and to know how to ask for help.

All the parents were lovely, polite, and respectful, even the lady who was distressed that her son doesn't have an A, potentially marring his heretofore unblemished G.P.A. Both she and her son were unhappy with the quiz grades being so low, but I explained that I want them to be able to remember details from previous chapters, because sometimes those details are insignificant, sometimes they aren't, and sometimes it's difficult to tell whether a detail is insignificant, if for no other reason than those details help us understand characterization.

On a side note, I continue to have outright unpleasant interactions with one particular student, which is a shame, because I really want to like him but he fights me at every turn and at this point just dislikes me enough to want to transfer out of my class. I'm not sure it will happen -and there's a whole lot I wish I could publicly share about him - but we'll see what happens, especially given that the end of the quarter is coming up.

Monday, February 29, 2016

When Are You An Adult?

I read a column today in which a question was posed about the age at which you felt like an adult. The columnist noted that she felt like an adult through various events that so many others go through: getting her heart broken; moving 1,200 miles away for love; meeting and marrying her husband; having children; helping her husband bury his elderly father; etc. 

There were various other responses in terms of responsibility - financial, emotional, personal, etc. - being recognized as the marker of reaching adulthood, or the recognition of being adulthood, with general agreement that there isn't a single thing that one experiences - or a group of things that one experiences - that causes one to have reached adulthood.

One person remarked that the realization for her was her finally being comfortable with herself. I think that may be the single best marker of having reached adulthood. All those other things are simply markers that some people hit, some don't, and that everyone reaches at different points in their lives due to circumstances that we can't always control.

This was my response:
However, I think the biggest for me is that I’m finally comfortable with who I am. And I like myself. Yes. This. So much this. 
So many of those other things are just markers. Not to negate them or minimize them as means of "crossing that line," but merely to identify that there are things that happen to some people but not to others, or they happen at different times, so trying to say, "It's when I had/did fill-in-in-the-blank" as a marker of adulthood won't work for everyone. I'm so grateful that no one here is saying that.

I turned 40 last week. I married "late" (5 years ago); we paid off our mortgage maybe four years ago; our cars are paid off; our student loans are paid off; we managed to send me through grad school (out-of-state grad school, so higher tuition) with no student loans; just this summer I finally started a full-time job that comes with a slew of benefits and a pension (I'm a teacher). We're childless, and it irks me to hear those with children tell me they didn't really know who they were until they had children. (Again, I realize no one here is saying that; I'm just very aware of that childless state.) 
Any of those could be (mis)construed as, "Welcome to adulthood!" For me, though, it's that I'm finally becoming comfortable with myself. Many feel more comfortable with themselves sooner than I did; I'm sure there are those who are never quite comfortable with themselves, regardless of age. I like myself; I see things how I could improve, but as I stand now, I'm happy with how things are. 
As an addendum: I think that helping my husband bury his mother 14 months after we got married helped, too, as did my husband losing his job 10 days after we got married. It was a rough start; my MIL wasn’t even 70 when she died, which was six weeks after having receiving a diagnosis (cancer). I remember how undone my husband was; he was 37, which to my mind is too young to lose one’s mother (and I’m saddened when I hear about people who were younger than we were when we lost his mother).

Teaching Stories

So, let's talk about teaching.

We're halfway through the third quarter, and my seniors are in the midst of Oedipus Rex. I'm not convinced I'll teach Sophocles again; I haven't clicked with any particular novel or literary genre. (I prefer teaching writing to teaching literature.) I've incorporated various types of assignments, including discussions, character analyses, study guides, short essays, crossword puzzles and word finds, movie guides, non-fiction web searches, etc. At the moment we've been focusing a lot on character analyses and study guides, but we've done all the previously listed activities in this particular unit and throughout the year. A student told me ("no offense") that I'm "overdoing the character analyses." We have done four within the past several weeks, but you'd think the play we're reading has hundreds of characters. Fortunately, this is the last round. Moar torture!

Today I asked one student to leave the class for the second time this quarter because he simply will not stop texting, and when I call him on it, he accuses me of being unfair, of singling him out, of not equally being on top of other students, or being "uneven" in my distribution of punishment. It's true that I do ask him repeatedly to put the phone away, more so than I ask other students, but this is after months' worth of asking him to put the phone away, his not doing his assignments, talking to both his assistant principal and his counselor, talking to him in multiple ways at many points throughout the year about his homework completion, etc. He doesn't see me talk to other students because from the moment he walks into my classroom (late - if he comes), he only ever stops texting when I ask him to stop, which is only when I'm standing over him. The other students actually do their work.

The day did start on a good note: One of my favorites students is an aide (filing, running errands, dropping off or picking up copies - grunt work). I don't remember how we got to talking about this today, but he said, "I'm not a cow. If anything, I'm a moose." I've been giggling about this all day. Whenever I get frustrated with some students (fortunately it's rare that I encounter students I dislike), I think about the students who are just nice.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

My Thirties

I turn 40 today, and I'm feeling reflective. I've been busy these past ten years:
  • I finished an undergraduate degree in English education.
  • I traveled abroad ten times (three trips to Ireland; two to Northern Ireland; and one trip each to Britain, Sweden, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Italy, and Vatican City).
  • I moved from New York to Pennsylvania to Utah within the space of a year.
  • I met my husband and got engaged and married within 18 months.
  • I started two graduate degrees, finished one, and am nearly done completing the second (I'm revising my thesis).
  • I taught at four colleges in three states (Long Island University in New York; Lehigh Carbon Community College in Pennsylvania; and Utah Valley University and Salt Lake Community College in Utah); I taught part-time at a high school that was not a good fit before being offered a full-time position at a high school which is a better match.
  • I presented at professional conferences, including NEWCA, several times as an undergrad and once as a graduate student, and NCPTW just last year, my first time as an actual teacher based on research I had done for my master's thesis.
Hopefully, I'll be finishing that second master's degree by the end of the year, barring any weird unforeseen issues. Ed and I had hoped to have the experience of adopting and raising a child, but so far that hasn't worked out. I'm not sure that we'll adopt a child at this point, but it's still something we're still considering - perhaps an older child.

That which I have accomplished in my 30s are things that many people do in earlier than I have; I'm only now becoming more comfortable with the way things have worked out This was difficult for me to accept because I felt I was consistently surrounded by people who were doing things the "right," more traditional, way, although I'm seeing more people who get married later, don't have children, who have children later, who adopt children, have fertility issues, start and finish college later, etc. I no longer think there is a single right way to do these things. The pressure I feel is largely completely internal and not the result of anyone else, but in my mind, I still feel the pressure I felt in high school to have done these things 10-15 years sooner than I actually did do these things - yet I look around and see that I have things others don't - a house paid off; student loans have been paid off or altogether unnecessary; cars paid off; the ability to travel. It's been a good decade. I'm finally beginning to feel settled.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Small Life Update

I've been  a long, in a manner of speaking. Last week was rough, but generally I've just been plugging away.
  • A colleague's wife died a few weeks ago; the memorial service was held at school last weekend. It was rough, as these things tend to be. She was a young woman who left behind her husband and a little girl.
  • My car's clutch needs to be replaced (I barely got home after the memorial service), so I've been driving around a rental car for the duration. Yesterday after school I temporarily lost the rental car in the school's parking lot. Like seemingly every other car, it's a silvery white sedan, so I kept walking around trying to unlock several cars until I found mine. I was slightly worried that someone would mistake my incompetence for attempted burglary.
  • Last night I completed the first class - Foundations of ESL Education - for my ESL endorsement. All the classwork has been graded; it looks like my final grade will be a 99.87%. (I lost two points in a discussion post.) Next week the second class - Understanding Language Acquisition & Cognition - begins.
  • Yesterday an abstract I submitted for Beyond the Frontier: Innovations in First Year Composition was accepted. (I'm told that the second volume, of which my paper will be a part, will be published in 2017.)
  • Niall turned 10 months old last week. He's pulling himself up and standing, crawling in fits and starts, has two bottom teeth, and is eating things like kiwi and peas. He's quite adorable. I haven't FaceTimed with him since Christmas, I think, but I think that should be remedied.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

ESL Endorsement

My school's administration offered to pay for me to get a second endorsement in ESL (English as a Second Language), something I can add to my teaching license. (I currently have an English endorsement.) There are several universities in Utah that offer ESL endorsements, but my school district is working with Southern Utah University to offer several cohorts whereby for the next year, about 16 of us will be taking the 16 classes required for the ESL Endorsement. It's actually quite convenient; classes meet once a week, on Tuesday evenings at the district auxiliary offices, which is about five miles down the road.

I haven't been especially interested in ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) in the past, but it's a good skill to have so I'll keep an open mind about the classes, of which there are six. (And perhaps I'll wind up enjoying much more than I think.) The first class is "Foundations of ESL," and like all the other classes, meets once a week for three hours in the evening; during the rest of the week there are various online assignments - videos to watch, articles and textbooks to read, essays, quizzes, etc. We're even lent textbooks: The Crosscultural, Language, and Academic Development Handbook: A Complete K-12 Reference Guide and Myths and Realities: Best Practices for English Language Learners.

Among our assignments this week, we're reading the following: