Late, late night last night. The concert was great, though. But with the hour I got in, I can't believe the morning went so well. I felt terrible for the first half hour, but after a while things felt fine and the lessons rocked today.
A few things:
1. I think I like John Roberts. And not just because of the baseball metaphor. I'm still a little concerned he could be a closet crazy conservative, but I think more likely that he's a moderate akin to O'Connor.
2. Strange, strange staff meeting today, complete with fireworks over what seems to be a forced minimum grade of 60 that we can give students. That is one order that there is no chance in hell I will follow.
3. I'm home tonight by 5:30, and have from now until bedtime to myself. This is the first time that I've had four or five consecutive hours to myself since last Wednesday, and I'm not exaggerating. There's a mountain of laundry to lug to the laundromat and wash, but more likely I'll have a nice evening at the gym (last workout was Friday), the grocery store for some badly needed groceries, the oil change place, and perhaps a little time behind the lawnmower. I've got tomorrow and the next day off at night, too.
4. Tomorrow my classes spend the day down in the library, getting instruction about the library resources. Not only is this the first time the library has been open with any sort of functionality in my five years of teaching, this is the first time a librarian has invited my classes and I in for a tutorial. I hope it means a day of me quietly sitting in the back, grading the already massive amounts of papers that I have to grade.
5. I'm now up to 161 students. Today, I heard a glimmer of sympathy from administration about it. That's the first glimmer I've heard from anyone in administration in my three years of having mammoth student loads that are double the student loads in other departments. I'm cautiously optimistic that something so dramatically unfair and against sound educational practices is finally being called out as being both those things.
6. Ernest Gaines, the author of A Lesson Before Dying (which my students read for summer reading and is one of my favorite books to teach), The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, and A Gathering of Old Men, is coming to Towson University this month. I just found out yesterday - it's been poorly publicized, and I can't even get good info on the Towson website. But I'm determined to bring as many kids there as I can. I'm working on the busses as we speak (I'm on hold). I hope the kids get into it. I think I've got to make it a first come, first serve thing, where anyone who brings in the $6 for the busses will get to go. I hope they get into it. I'm personally very excited about seeing Gaines, who I think is one of our greatest living writers and will be someone whose work will be read in 200 years as one of the foremost American voices of the 20th century. I hope he's working on another novel because it's been fourteen years since A Lesson Before Dying.
7. If someone were to ask me the most important American writers of the 20th century, I'd say it's something like Gaines, Hemingway, Baldwin, Morrison, Steinbeck, Faulkner, and Vonnegut. I'm embarassed to say that I don't see more women on the list. Although I think women have written some of the greatest American novels of the 20th century (Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, Louise Erdrich's Love Medicinei, Alice Walker's The Color Purple, Carson McCuller's The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, even Jumpha Lahiri's The Namesake [that one's early 21st century]), but many of those do not have as impressive bodies of work as those books suggest. I think this is interesting stuff, so if you have additions/contentions, let me know.
8. Speaking of great American writers of the 20th century, I was saddened to learn that August Wilson is dying of liver cancer. He announced just a couple weeks ago that doctors are giving him less than six months to live. I've taught his plays in each of the six years I've been in front of students - The Piano Lesson in Lansing, and Fences and Joe Turner's Come and Gone here - and once met him after a speech he gave at Michigan State. I saw his play Gem of the Ocean, starring Phylicia Rashad, last year on Broadway. He's a contentious old guy, but an incredible speaker, and his plays showcase his impressively poetic dialogue and well-drawn characters. The character of Troy Maxson, a former Negro league baseball star embittered about the prejudice that held him back from making a living playing the sport, so embittered that he refuses to allow his own teenage son to pursue a football scholarship because sports are a "white man's game," is one of my favorite characters in all of drama. The kids love August Wilson plays, as well. I'll be seeing his most recent play, Radio Golf, at Centre Stage this year, and he very well might have passed by then. Sad, and too young to die (60, and working on his first novel last I heard), but he's certainly been appreciated and honored in his lifetime and will be read and performed for years and years after his death.
9. My current instinct is that I don't see myself at this school next year. I think five years is a nice even number to go with. I like a lot of things that are happening there right now in terms of hallways being clear and strictness being applied, so it's not that. Rather, it's like I want to add a little chaos to my life that is my own doing, not the doing of someone else. Take control. I've been through four principals and three department heads in two years. My student load is very high. I'm definitely feeling overworked. All these things are not new but there gets a point where I need to bend a bit. Anyhow, I'm still not sure, at all, but that's my current instinct. Not to worry, I'm not going to be teaching anywhere but in an inner city somewhere, if I do decide to leave. And maybe we'll see how baseball season goes. Heh.
10. I've made 13 calls home this week. Kids are failing already, after having not done summer reading. Ugh. This is the year when I first start to hate summer reading. I think I have 75% of my kids' names down by now. Not bad after having only seen them five times each group.
11. In my continuing attempting to relate to my students, I decided to sprout a big red zit on the end of my nose this week. It no longer has a heartbeat of its own, but it still makes me feel a little like Rudolph the rednosed reindeer. Or like I'm 14. I decided to combat it by not shaving for five days.
Face Of The Day - A woman receives a beauty treatment at the Carmen Navarro luxury beauty center in Sevilla, on May 20, 2013. By Cristina Quicler/AFP/Getty Images.
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