Showing posts with label Teaching. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Teaching. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 07, 2023

how CAN the kids be alright?

Nu had just raised their hand to answer a question in Spanish class; I'd just landed in my office and poured myself my first cup of tea. And then both of us got the news that Nu's school was on lockdown due to an active shooter. 

I've lived in fear of this since Sandy Hook, but there's no preparing for this kind of call from the school. Thankfully, it turned out to be a hoax. And everyone's okay.

But as I canceled my classes via email and sped to the church where families were supposed to pick up their kids, I kept thinking of this morning when we'd run a little late and Nu had to sprint to make the it on to the school bus... I kept wondering if I'd be wishing they hadn't made it on to the school bus. 

I guess there's always a low-key anticipation of this happening if you live in the U.S.. I remember not sending the kids back to school until well into the new year after Sandy Hook, although I didn't seem too bothered by a gun incident in a neighboring school district last month. The other time I had to pick up the kids due to a gun threat was when they were at ecocamp together.

This is a messed up way to live. I couldn't bear to be apart from Nu for the rest of the day after I picked them up... and I got absolutely no work done... Tomorrow, I'll make up for it tomorrow.

Pic: Students gathered in the football field from a news article.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

blooms, fumes, and news

Yesterday when I was making an offering plate to take to the temple with At, I couldn't find a single bloom. The paperwhites and hyacinths that were so heady a couple of weeks ago were all past their prime. A new batch of paperwhites I'd started had grown very tall and then very floppy, but haven't produced any blooms. I ended up taking silk flowers and fruit to the temple... Today, my Christmas amaryllis (from LB and TB) is blooming in the tea garden! Long may it bloom.

I must remember to ask Nu if they want me to listen or problem solve when they start fuming. Nu has an ambitious essay project, whose working title is, "the undersupply of creativity in alternative music cultures under capitalism." It's a wonderful topic and I've listened to Nu share ideas about it for months now, but it may also be a bit too much for a fifteen-year-old who's struggling at school to accomplish on a timetable and according to a rubric. They're currently mad at their teacher, and I didn't help matters by intervening to say that actually, the structure and strategies their teacher proposed seem relevant and reasonable.

A long teaching day with bits of sparkly news: AH, a student from last term, stopped by to say they'd taken the Howard Zinn quote in my email signature to frame their senior dance presentation; KS, my independent thesis student, was named as a Fulbright finalist; students I nominated for the Barlow award have been shortlisted. (Those students have turned around and asked for me to write their reference letters, which I'm honored to do... But of course it does mean more to do.)

And--TA-DA--at the end of the day, I got to pick Big A up from the train station! Nu had already gone to bed, but Scout and Huck are thrilled he's back from Wisconsin (or "Piss-consin" as the puppies call it disrespectfully because they resent that he has to be there so much). 

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

So Much Snow!

A neighboring school district had a snow day (they had a gun incident yesterday, so may have taken this as a reprieve) but Nu had school and so did I.

Lots of shoveling though. Big A was prepping for his grand rounds lecture tomorrow, so I did the honors (without the benefit of the snowblower as I've never learned how to work it). We have a really nice shovel that makes things easy, but I was nevertheless sweat-soaked by the time I finished. It was so satisfying to look up the driveway and see how neat my work was.

I'm currently reading two novels, and it's a bit weird. I'm almost done with the new Kingsolver, Demon Copperhead, (which is in itself a take on Dickens' David Copperfield) but I dipped into OM's The Dream Builders and couldn't put it down, so I'm about halfway through that too. I guess I was curious if there were any versions of me in OM's novel... Ever since I found what I thought was a reference to me in an Amit Chaudhuri, I've been curious/wary. I just reread that nearly 20-years-ago post and realize many Indian girls would probably fit that description.

Pic: Trellises with scoops of snow in the back garden.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

book talk

to move out of no and never
look up to the untold 

It feels as if we've already 
lived forever

made the eternal arguments 
a hundredfold 

friend, tether me with books
cover me with pages

mix me in the breathlessness
of these mistakes

turn me to light and lightness
learn me to be courageous 
---------------------------------------
Pic: Books for reading groups at work this term. The first discussion was today at the President's house. Usually, a book that describes students as "consumers" would make me ditch it, but I had to read it so I did. Small colleges like ours are likely to go the way of the afternoon newspaper (i.e. into oblivion) if we don't innovate. Fair. We'll need to do that, however, without losing our idealistic core--our conviction that education impacts and improves lives and that learning to learn is the best form of future-proofing for our kids. 

Thursday, January 19, 2023

five pups tonight

I spent many hours on the sofa in post-pizza and post-teaching lassitude this evening, accompanied by Scout (at my hip) and Huck (by my feet) and Floof (on the bannister). The fourth pup is me ("Pup," "Puppy," and "Princess Puppy Dog" have been nicknames from different loved ones--one of whom has a birthday today). 

The fifth pup is in this poem by Charles Simic (Simic died recently and I've been thinking of this poem about how we don't deserve dogs--or war--a lot). 

On this Very Street in Belgrade

Your mother carried you

Out of the smoking ruins of a building

And set you down on this sidewalk

Like a doll bundled in burnt rags,

Where you now stood years later

Talking to a homeless dog,

Half-hidden behind a parked car,

His eyes brimming with hope

As he inched forward, ready for the worst.

 

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

double bubble

The reflection of the graffiti doubled how colorful that patch of the bridge looked as L and I came around the bend, and it reminded me of Laura Gilpin's poem "Two-headed Calf." 

L hadn't heard of this amazing poem, so I found it on my phone and read it to her with my voice breaking at the end.

Then we finished up our walk and I headed into a day of meetings meetings meetings meetings.

And some good news from this week: two poems  accepted to an anthology of pandemic-era writing, and also accepted--an academic book proposal that the editor who wrote back characterized as "gentle and kind."

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

great starts

My friend Oindrila Mukherjee's novel "The Dream Builders" was launched today. Here she is with her fabulous book and a cake version of it too. After the launch, reading, Q&A, book signing, and helping with clear up, we hung out with tapas and wine, celebrating until late with her local and Atlanta friends. 

I got home after midnight, and hung out with Scout and Huck for a while (they were the only ones up), too tired to actually go to bed. It's after 1:30 now, so I really should get up and go to bed as I'll have to wake up at 5/5:30 to help Nu get to school...

The first day of classes went well. For the first time in a while I don't have the same students in more than one class, so it felt very liberating to make the same silly icebreaker jokes without feeling like I'm repeating myself. Ha. 

(Oh... and I was one of the few people who was masked at the book launch. One of the guests who'd come from Atlanta, and WHO WORKS AT THE CDC, said they put away their mask because no one else was wearing one, but now that I was masking they felt more comfortable...  then they pulled their K-95 with a flourish and wore it. What the what?!?!)

Monday, January 09, 2023

sitting pretty

The new term started today, so I got a walk with Big A in while it was still dark out. The pretty fairy lights in the MSU dining hall caught my eye and my camera caught the pink and blue sky above it. 

Little did I know that we'd get sunshine for the the FIRST TIME THIS YEAR later today. It was so lovely to see blue skies and sunlight. To our south, The Detroit Free Press started joking about it too: "Multiple locations across metro Detroit are detecting a bright, yellow, shining orb in the sky. We're working to confirm what exactly it is before it disappears." Good one, Freep!

Finalized the syllabuses and published the online material today. Contacted classes, independent study students, and the travel term. Did paperwork, finished up the last of the LORs, and the remaining journal review. Sent my apologies to an editor for work I won't be able to send him until later this week (hopefully). I think I've done all I can for the moment, but catch myself going over class materials obsessively... as always, I'm so excited/anxious for the first day (tomorrow).
 

Friday, January 06, 2023

school friends

I'm glad it's this way. 

Lunch date with JG hosting and KB visiting this afternoon. JG used these pretty bracelets (mine serendipitously matched my sweater!) as napkin holders and after we'd all exclaimed and immediately put them on, someone claimed the bracelets had sisterly solidarity power, so we smushed the bracelets together to activate.

I want to always be this way, with dreams and silliness and love. With KB wrapping a Prince magnet she found in the airport for me in colorful magazine paper, with JG calling me as I drove home to talk some more and keep me company. For being able to share details about my family's tough year, and to have plans for road trips. 

We're not "school friends" formed in the crucibles of elementary/high school/undergrad/grad school, but each of us arrived at our teaching institution in different decades and found each other. I'll always push back against the rhetoric of "we're like a family" in the workplace, but work is where we meet our kin(d) sometimes. I'm grateful for all of this.

Wednesday, January 04, 2023

1, 2, 3, journeys

How do you comfort someone who's lost a sibling? I had no adequate words, but I made my way over anyway bearing a tiffin box with dinner, snacks, and two funny DVDs. I found the vase in a thrift store last week, and this week matching flowers showed up for me to take to my grieving friends. I'm ashamed to say that when I was younger there were times when I'd avoid such visits. Thankfully, I've learned--mostly through people's kindness to me--how showing up is important. Life has been a long journey of learning about all the stuff that is not about me at all. 

Speaking of long journeys, I finally finished Anna Karenina. Big A, the judgmental monogamist, approved of how Tolstoy delineates the awfulness of an extra marital affair although T does it without ever resorting to moralization. I myself was heartily sick of Levin, supposedly a stand in for old Leo himself, by the end though. 

In other journeys, KB's flight out of Minneapolis was delayed by over a day, so JG has postponed our reunion lunch from today to Friday--just after my first committee meeting of the new year. That left me with a suddenly wide open day that I used for course prep, an extra long walk, an extra long soak, and extra reading time before I went to get Nu from school. It's my "Boss Day" so the extra time for indulgence was compulsory! 🙃

Monday, January 02, 2023

Jan energy

Wrestled the Christmas tree down and did a deep clean of the house. Any remaining glitter will just have to be absorbed into the aesthetic. All the Christmas cookies, sweets, and treats have been finished off. Most back-to-school work has resumed. 

We're basically in full-on January mode. "Ready" may not be the right word, but I'm certainly eager to get the year started.

Pic: Still delighted with last year's snow globe find... I didn't add any to the collection this year.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

long + dull

It's not the temperatures I mind at all. The lack of sunshine might kill me though. I'm looking forward to the solstice so I can feel the edges of daylight lengthening its way into Spring soon

I've been awake for 24+ hours now... I woke up from a post wrapping party "nap" at 11 last night and have just stayed up finishing up the gift sorting and wrapping and "evening out" family presents so everyone gets the same number of  "presents" (five--down from eight last year). The presents are themed, so I can just move things around until it looks like everyone gets the same number of packages although the actual item count may vary. My kids won't care if one of them seems to get more, but this such an ingrained habit now. 

Drove in to work today and puttered around doing homey stuff--took some Christmas treats to my favorite offices on campus, watered my plants, cleaned my office, swept, dusted, tidied. Decluttered my desk and swapped out some table lamps. A colleague needs stuff for their new home, so it gave me some incentive to be ruthless about anything I'm not actively using. Finally got to straighten that one picture that hung crooked and drove me crazy. It wasn't in "my" bay, but the neighboring modern languages bay, which usually always has people in it--so I'd held off until today. Created a chatty nook just outside the English Bay by pulling together abandoned furniture in the hallway--it's a very nice focal point as one comes up by the east staircase now. Tidied up the English Bay sitting area, retired the old periodicals and copies of the college newspaper and arts journal, and rearranged student informational material. I've been told a couple of times that I should let housekeeping or student interns do this stuff rather than do it myself, so it felt good to do all the things without making people uncomfortable. I was such a good little elf. When people come back things will seem neater and nicer even if they can't put their finger on it. 

I got home to everyone (Big A, Scout, Huckie, and Nu) napping. I listened to old Tamil film music as I made us a gingery soup and cheesy corn muffins (jalapeños on top for the grownups) for dinner. I was happy to see Nu eat. He's been home sick for a couple of days: negative for Covid, but the poor baby had a fever and was miserable. He was finally well enough to go back drag himself to school today though. Winter break starts tomorrow, so thankfully, there'll be additional time to relax and recover more fully. 

Pic: A week's worth of cloudy days in the forecast. As dull as today's post!

Monday, December 12, 2022

some yays...

Grades are in ! (Early!)

Dinner with BSL and EM!

LOVING Anna Karenina!

I get to pick up Big A  from the train station tonight!

I can finally watch the season finale of White Lotus!

Pic: Lots of extra pets for Scout and Huck from EM.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

grey skies, glassy river

At's coworkers S and H, who had worked until 11 pm, came over after their shift to strategize for their first bargaining meeting on Monday. For fuel, I made them tea to go with the iced cookies we had. They worked until nearly 2:00 am--their quiet murmurs punctuated by shouts of laughter. How hard and joyously these young people work! 💗

At and I were up again around 6:00 am to make breakfast tacos. Then I dropped At off at the bus for Detroit where they're meeting up with friends to go see Connor O'Malley. Back home, Nu took today to "decompress." 

I did too. I took a long ramble by myself, started rereading Anna Karenina, did yoga with Big A (tech-y: via Portal and a Mirror lesson and doggy with guest appearances by Scout and Huck on my camera), soaked, snacked, made a sweet-potato-apple-"sausage"-spinach soup for dinner. Then on to student meetings and grading.

Let me be weird: At got home late last night after Nu had already gone to bed, so I thought Nu would want some At time at breakfast, but Nu decided for a Saturday sleep-in instead. Fair. Also, At was in a hurry this morning and didn't say goodbye to Nu. Understandable. The thing is... ever since I read Cheryl Strayed's Wild, where the siblings become estranged after their mom dies, I've been hit by the fear that my kids will lose touch with each other as grownups if I'm not around. 

How's that for a nice morbid thought? Ok... back to grading.

Pic: Grey skies and a glassy Red Cedar River; I love the curving tree in the foreground.

Wednesday, December 07, 2022

a "class" picture

My capstone students did such great work on their finals this week. 

I look forward to all the conference presentations that are going to evolve out of their work here over the next few months...
 

Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Hope as a draft

EM to dinner tonight, and I finally got to give her the "Hope is a form of planning" journal I got at the NWSA book fair (EM and I are working on the idea of hope in the classroom). Also just realized from research googling that it's a quote from Gloria Steinem.

I have a lot of stuff about hope saved in an email draft--everyone from Mariame Kaba to Audre Lorde is on it. And also this solid article of how to deal with "hope fatigue" by Lesley Alderman.

It's nice to read this draft as it never fails to cheer me up. 

(I suppose that's a good thing as I'm feeling a bit shaky currently. I teared up when I dropped Big A off at the train station and then cried in the car on hearing this fairly standard radio story because they talked about the 25th anniversary of Purple Rain. Something is going on with me, and I'm not sure what it is yet. Yes, I wish Prince were still in this world, but surely, it wasn't just that?) 

Pic: Book Club over the weekend. Being with them gives me hope. 

Thursday, December 01, 2022

imagine: rice, flour, oil, sugar, and beans

I post some version of this reminder that food banks benefit most from cash donations every year. This is as much for me as for people I know. It's always tempting to add extra peanut butter-beans-cereal to my grocery cart to feed my "larger family."  It's always satisfying to imagine that some other children (and I always imagined they were children) would be able to make a snack out of things I'd picked up. And of course when the kids were younger, it was a tangible way to teach caring. But giving to food banks is not supposed to be about how it makes me feel. 

So I've been good about cash contributions. 

But when The Refugee Development Center in town started taking up in-kind donations for Welcome Boxes, I signed right up to bring rice, flour, oil, sugar, and beans. If I were displaced and in a new place, I imagine I could make something my family might recognize from those supplies. I would want to.

There is a passage in Robert J.C. Young* that always resonates with students--where we're asked to imagine ourselves as refugees, to imagine the break in the daily routines of living... like discussing the day's menu with a neighbor. I think about that passage often. 

Anyway, Nu and I dropped off lots of supplies this evening. I could have easily done it before I picked Nu up from their remedial (whole other story!) class at school. But I kind of liked the idea of doing something together that would get Nu out of their own thoughts and social loops for a while.

* Also, that book is the ONLY time ever where I'm listed right next to Homi Bhabha (in the "Acknowledgements").

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

storyteller

I wake wanting to be
inside the side 
you are on 
                 to step outside my body 
                                   threading through
                                   discarded stories                your departures guiding me
                                                                               through volcanic swirls
                                                                               so swaha / shanti
                                    I'm ready to swallow fire 
                                    unwrap smoke shapes
                                    hold revelation

when you nod, mouth "now"
I'll know how right away
to rehearse my life 

Monday, November 28, 2022

dear diary,

Messy, turbulent reentry into the work week today = not a single photo taken. I'm trying hard to stay calm and remind myself of all the big, small, and daily crises people are facing so I can look beyond the forgotten deadlines and damaged expectations cluttering up this last week of instruction. I always forgive these, but staying compassionate does feel challenging sometimes. Mantra: I'm neither the target nor the source of all this; I can let it flow past me. 

Small successes in getting budget approval for books to gift to our capstone students; workshopping final projects; two important sets of e-introductions--a DEI one (SJ-EM) and one for our MFA (SS-WA); finishing up the last of Thanksgiving by folding the pumpkin gravy and the roasted veggies into a sambhar; and a truly lucky and important breakthrough in my CASA case (like OMG, it was mind blowing, and I now know exactly how to frame my report) . 

Went to work with sunrise; headed home with a sickle moon in the sky. But that's ok + these days are short. Dinner with the fam, a snooze with my Scout, and then to bed. (I stayed till Big A fell asleep and then crept out of bed to read... memories of doing this every day with the kids when they were littler made me smile. Guess I do this still with Scout and Huck daily...)


Sunday, November 20, 2022

Sunday stream (of consciousness )

Woke up slowly this morning, enjoying the darkness, then a quiet sunrise, then my tea, and meditation before having to talk to anyone.

Some quick chats with my India fam and early-rising friends and then on to the day in earnest. 

Despite my no-Christmas-before-Thanksgiving rule, I've made progress on a couple of adopt-a-family and some welcome boxes for refugees. Less altruistically,  I ordered some tees and stickers for the fam at TeePublic. I'm blanking on what to get people this year--I don't think people actually need anything and I'm tired of things not being used. I'd rather give to causes--the kids really seem to appreciate that more than anything else, anyway.

Nu changed his mind on going to UU so I headed out there by myself today. NB, one of Nu's friends, did the reading for all ages beautifully--signing as they read. So for a while there were two people signing in ASL on the dais, and it was very balletic. I really do want to learn ASL. I wished Nu had come... to see NB and also because it was apple cider-cinnamon donut communion day. Also really--what could be more "real Michigan" than revering apple cider and cinnamon donuts?

An afternoon visit to the Broad with RS and LB, for the Zaha Hadid retrospective where--surprise--my UU pastor was also there. Back to mine for tea and a debrief with R and L and then on to dinner and cuddles with Nu, Scout, and Huck. 

(I CANNOT WAIT FOR BIG A TO COME BACK ON WEDNESDAY.)

Looking ahead, I'll be back at work tomorrow, where the semester is beginning to find closure. I'm so chuffed when we get to this part of the term and students are finding their feet with research work and my job seems more supportive than instructional. 

Pic: Our group at The Broad Art Museum this afternoon. 

how CAN the kids be alright?

Nu had just raised their hand to answer a question in Spanish class; I'd just landed in my office and poured myself my first cup of tea....