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

Saturday, August 29, 2020

My reminder

(Today's picture is from Baker Woodlot. The skinny sapling with the pink tree tag reminded me of Aunt P who would make a knot in her sari or tie something to her wrist as a reminder to complete a task she was afraid of forgetting.)

An early morning hike with B (we hit Radiology Gardens, Baker Woodlot, MSU Arboretum, the Children's Garden, AND the Horticultural Gardens) and then a ramble with L and TB (on the campus river path); EM's birthday Zoom charades party; phone dates with SD and cousin P; a long multi-person call with the Bangalore part of the family (dad's birthday is tomorrow). 

Also, monitoring student responses to online assignments online; different kinds of advising emergencies; making peace between student groups; and updating files.  

And that doesn't begin the chronicle of other weekly tasks (plants! cleaning! garden! food prep!) that have piled up.

If I'm not careful, I can see weekends becoming overcrowded and unrestful. I must find a way to coral the work stuff and spread out the housekeeping over the week.

Friday, August 28, 2020

No more sunshine

The relief of having survived the first week of classes (has there ever been a semester when 'survived' had such literal significance?) is clouded by today's relentless rain.  It means no hike with L, whom I haven't seen all week. Also, there's still a lot of catch up and online prep to accomplish before weekend mode.

As I get busy, a picture of last week's 'sunflower with three busy bees' for motivation. 


Thursday, August 27, 2020

Got that look

I'm fine, I'm fine. I'm fine.

Feeling like everything from 2 through 12 is normal. Right?

(Full teaching day; have to talk really loudly through my mask; feel bad about having to remind students about masks sometimes; but I think we're beginning to get to know each other, yay; dropped off At's kettle bells and got a hug; went home to dinner already on the table thanks to Big A; Nu seemed to have managed the first full day of online school okay; kiddie cuddles from Nu and puppies; a binge of Indian Matchmaking with Big A; and so to bed.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Today's (s)log

Yesterday's picture, and a tiny today update. 

Met all my classes; my students seem lovely! My international students patched in via video, and that went ok too. I am grieving the loss of classroom intimacy--video, masks, distancing, and having to sit in rows instead of a circle are all messy. But I get it--and I think we'll get through it. 

Got to meet At before afternoon classes to pass on some freezer staples, I and was chuffed to see he had two masks and long sleeves on. Yay! I walked him back to his house and got a "back hug" as he turned to get the stairs. Seeing At made me so happy.

My last class ended late and then I headed to a socially distant picnic at the president's house for our new MFA director. Both of them have worked really hard on the program even through the strangeness of the summer, and I was happy to celebrate with them. But the sun had set by the time I drove home--another reminder this summer is ending. Luckily, I had a long conversation with JG to keep me company in the car. 

Back home, I discovered that L had dropped off some of Nu's favorite brownies and a ton of snacks as a back-to-school treat for Nu (they start tomorrow). My Nu was already in bed, but I was told they lovvvvvvvved me when I snuck in for a goodnight kiss. And then Big A woke up, and we had a teensy dessert-date chit-chat (me with Nu's brownies, Big A with the leftovers of the Culver's from his and Nu's dinner) before he headed off to work. I'll be sleeping with Scout and Huck tonight.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

First Day

Yesterday's Hawk Island hike with SS was magical. I came away with book and movie recommendations and the idea that I'm not the one who gets to decide who reads my stuff. Of course, I tell students this all the time, but I need to hear it too, sometimes.

Today was my first day back in the classroom since March. Yes, it's Sunday, but that's when the first-years start this year. My first-day jitters were keener than usual, but once back in the classroom, things settled into the usual. 

I don't think I have everyone's names yet as I usually do. Masked, even people I already know are hard to recognize; memorizing the names of new students when half their faces are out of view is going to be quite a challenge. Bless everyone who smiles with their eyes and nods in class.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020


B dropped this jewel of a blanket off on the front porch for me today. I don't know what I did to deserve it. I rightly don't even know if this is knitting or crochet. I just know that it is absolutely beautiful and it must have taken hours on hours of work and love to make.

When I called Nu to see it, they thought something was wrong because I looked a bit shellshocked--I think I am, actually. I've known B as a student, colleague, and friend, but this new iteration as sister might be the best one yet. 

Monday, August 17, 2020

All the work and enough play

Scout gets so much love just being Scout! I'm not that lucky, so I have to work hard to make sure people are happy with me. 

But I worked so super hard today, I'd accomplished all the work stuff that needed to get done. And it was just 2:00 pm. I'd even managed to email all my students AND advisees AND independent scholars in a serious yet supportive way (or so I hope). 

That was the point at which I decided I deserved a massage. Big A was grilling for dinner, so I managed to bag an appointment with someone new, and off I went. 

I made it back in time for icy lemonade and coconut-y tomato gravy and dinner jokes. Long after everyone went back indoors, I hung out by myself listening to distant traffic, taking snapshots (memory/camera) of the sky, and pulling together songs for a 2020 playlist. 

Friday, August 07, 2020


I was a bit skimpily dressed for my meeting--something I realized only as I was actually logging into the meeting and got the camera preview, so I threw on a scarf I fortuitously found stuffed between the couch cushions. There's no AC in the upstairs library, so it was super uncomfortable, but obviously not as uncomfortable as 'office' inappropriateness.

My selfie (after the meeting) came out with old family pictures perched over my shoulder; I appreciated the notion of mom and aunts figuratively having my back as I undertook a South Indian dosa fest for dinner (dosas, sambhar, chutney, chick*n varuval, and the mandatory potato-peas stuffing). Let the record show that today's dosa yearnings were brought on by the "Don't Mind if I Dosa" episode of Padma Lakshmi's delightful series Taste the Nation on Hulu.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

The Other Side

These signs mandating face coverings on MSU's campus (indoors and outdoors!) have just popped up: I'm so happy to see them; I'd be so much happier if all the panting runners and cyclists would wear masks already. 

In other news, while waiting for my 11:00 am meeting to start, I snatched about 40+ minutes to do some work on a writing project and that felt really, really, really good. 

I didn't get a lot done, and I definitely didn't get great work done, but I got started! I'm glad I didn't let the lack of scheduled time or the fact that that the clock wasn't precisely aligned at the top of the hour throw me off (this is a ridiculous but real procrastinating trigger for me and has been since grade school days). A good lesson to remember for tomorrow if our departmental meeting goes on for longer than planned and I have some magic minutes before my noon meeting. 

And I'm getting in some sustaining one-on-one time with the human kids--the alternating walk-talks have hit a rhythm and I watched a couple of good movies--Misery with At the Stephen King fan and Never Let me Go with Nu who at 12 read the Ishiguro novel last month. (Yes, bragging; sorry! Byeee.)

Monday, August 03, 2020


It's August and we're still having multiple daily work meetings spaced out all day. The rest of the day is building each class and syllabus manually on our new platform, Canvas. While all this counts as doing the necessary--perhaps even as accomplishing something new--I didn't get a chance to settle in to 'deep work' or dream up projects this summer.

There are days of dread about what might be in store and today was one of them. Would I worry less if there was an end in sight?

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

'The Big Picture'

Syllabus building proceeds apace. So many details remain to be filled in, but I think I have the big picture.

Kinda like this goofy peacock (?) at the MSU Arboretum--all those individual pots of begonias will fill out the plot with plumage, but for now, we have to compartmentalize, trust circumstances will cooperate, and hope for the best. 

Monday, July 27, 2020

Silver Linings

My social media is full of amazing pictures of comet Neowise cycling through on a 6800-year orbit (SJ's, DM's, AD's were particularly beautiful). And here I am taking pictures of the sun finally breaking through in the middle of Service Road. I do what I can, I guess. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Big A and I cycled over to Whole Foods for supplies and assembled poke bowls together for dinner. At was charmed by the cycling, Nu appreciated the poke (esp. as they're still adjusting to the reality that school will open 100% online), and Scout and Huck always treasure all things related to "Mr. Slammin."

Oh, and I finally finished designing a necessary campus-wide learning module and uploaded it. Now it's up to others to refine, repair, or redo, I guess.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Beautiful Ordinary 1, 2, 3

1. Compared to yesterday,  today's headcount was easier 😊.*

2. Pandemic realization #87654: I've always loved our big, communal family study, but it's a challenge when the foreseeable future holds a lot of overlapping meeting schedules.

3. I was SO proud of bestie KB at our final meeting today as she worked, spoke up, and fought for everyone's wellbeing. We voted on an important resolution that will hopefully make it a bit easier for people to work online without jumping through HR-related hoops.

* A note on how much I love these four and how much I love to see them hanging out together and how blessed I am that At (21) and Nu (12) will find things and shows and games to share across the generational and gender gaps. 

But as a reminder of the real here--the togetherness of this week is brought to you by Big A confiscating the kids' phones into next Tuesday.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Babies w/o Breakfast

The biggest = the saddest.
We're moving to a different online instructional platform at work, and my morning meeting ran late (there are so many morning meetings!!) and according to Big A's phone pic, some of the kids got hungry and anxious for breakfast. 😂

It's gloriously cooler with gray-stormy-gloomy weather outside. I canceled all school-adjacent activities for the 12-year-old, and can hear them cackling with their older sibling over ridiculous videos in the rumpus room now.

Out of the meeting, but deep into the woods of my email and editing...

Tuesday, June 30, 2020


Oh hey, look: a pic of At and me in the same frame. We're at a meeting with Senator Gary Peters' office making a case for us (the U.S.) to pay our U.N. dues and reinstate our membership in the World Health Organization.

BT made a point about how she and Peters were Alma grads and although both of them are before my time, I beamed as though I had personally handed them their diplomas.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Daily laugh/cry

This is so on the nose, I suspect someone in my teaching community wrote it.  Full thing is here at McSweeney's.

"Dear University Community,
Since we first announced our plans 
to reopen this fall (a far too early decision given the lack of reliable data about the likely 
prevalence of COVID-19 in the fall, but done out of necessity to beat the June 1st National 
College Decision Day deadline), many students, parents, faculty, and staff have asked us 
how we plan to ensure that we reopen safely. Our strategy is outlined below, but the short 
answer is this: Our university will proceed as if everything will be okay 
because we really, really want it to be."

Thursday, June 25, 2020


A lunchtime visitor-nuzzler actually makes work easier for me in this picture. I wonder how people with younger/needier kids are faring.

I'm up by 6 most days. I have plenty of time to myself before the kids are supposed to wake up at 8:30. We start the day with a 'cuddle'--sitting in the rumpus room between At and Nu while they continue to wake up/tell me about their dreams from last night/plans for the day/random theories about Avatar or the world while Scout and Huck rotate for pets. This is truly the sweetest time in the day for me.

We start breakfast at 9 or there may be 'extensions' esp. as we're not allowed to get off the couch unless the clock is precisely at 9/9:05/9:10 etc. #RandomKidRules. After breakfast they're working on their projects and are technically on their own for lunch (usually leftovers or something microwaveable). I'll get visitors now and then and requests to play cards/watch a video/share some outrage especially if I work in the study, but the next time I see them could be at 4:30 when they're supposed to report to the kitchen to help me with dinner.

All this to say, the kids are quite low-maintenance for me right now, and I have *exactly* two months (we're supposed to start classes on August 24th) to make this time count for something.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Larger than they appear

The jumpy brown blob
(perpendicular to the top of my arch)
I thought baby frogs were tadpoles--I had no idea they could be juveniles this minuscule, but it turns out the internet knows all about them already. Not L and I this morning--we were surprised and incredulous and spent whole stretches trying to avoid squishing them accidentally.

Speaking of perspective and relative size, Bowdoin College appears to be taking a really interesting approach to Fall 2020 classes, with mostly just first years on campus. We're supposed to be forging ahead at Alma and it may yet all turn out ok--and I'm looking forward to 'normal' term especially as I miss my students and colleagues more than I usually do over the summer. But I was taken aback when KB asked--pointedly cutting through the fingers-crossed aspect of our planning--exactly how many deaths we were willing to suffer before we decide to move online. 

Over at Bon Appetit, Roxanne Gay talks about "cooking the bad news away." Or trying to, anyway. And yes, the privilege of it: "It is an immense privilege, and one I do not take for granted, having access to fresh food, having the money to buy it, having the leisure to track down ingredients, and the time to cook. I am overwhelmed by this privilege as I read the news each day, knowing that more than 22 million people are unemployed; that there are endless lines at food banks across the country; that people are getting sick and they are dying; and cities across the country are hampered by inadequate testing, no contact tracing, and an anemic federal response. It’s all too much, and feeling that way is also a privilege."

Monday, June 22, 2020

Pride (and no prejudice)

All real time Pride events have been canceled obviously, but I wanted to celebrate this June with my lovely, brave ones.

So some tea and presents--button pins, bowties, and bandanas. And it was such a small thing and so simple, but it just made them so happy.

I wished I could bake a cake made out of rainbows for all the kids. Ok. I can't resist a Mean Girls reference, but seriously--I saw father's day posts to estranged fathers from past students on FB that broke my heart. Just love the kids. Just love.

Tuesday, June 09, 2020


Commissioned a drawing of Big A and the kids for Father's Day (it's looming!). Love how in this sketch everyone looks racially ambiguous. Right? Or maybe I'm just being fanciful. Not to suggest my multiracial babies automatically embody equality or possibility, but they're lovely beings. Mostly intentionally.

Spent most of yesterday and today in FYS planning workshops--twice the usual work to do since we have to plan for several contingencies and just two months to do it all...

And now I have to go write a kind note to the colleague who said that they had been "g*pped" and hope they take it the right way and didn't already use that kind of language around students.