Posts tagged ‘family’


Whatcha doin', Ma?

Our German shepherd, Diezel, is a bit of a nut job.  Due to overruse of a laser pointer when he was young, he is completely obsessed with the movement of shadows and “flashies.”  There are several things that he immediately comes running for, because he associates them with flashies that he can chase: opening a CD case, pulling out the tin foil, doing dishes in front of the kitchen window, opening the back door (since light from the window runs across the wall as you open and close it), and picking up a camera will all result in a big dog standing at attention on your feet, ears up, tail wagging, with a big doggie grin on his face.  And shadows are fair game too — you can spend hours waving your arms around like a flight controller and wiggling your fingers to keep him entertained.  And even when the flashy or the shadow is gone, he will still spend an hour or more at attention, waiting for it to come back.

Cara isn’t the least bit obsessive about that kind of thing, but she will get in on the act for a real laser pointer, or a flashy, if it is bright enough and persistent enough.  The thing that drives her crazy is flies.  We’ve had several in the house recently, and she will stand or sit on alert, totally still, ears cocked, waiting until the fly gets close enough for her to hear it again before she lunges towards the sound in an attack.  She can barely get her back legs off the ground when she jumps, but there are lots of jaws snapping shut on empty air during the assault.  And the funniest part of this is, for some unknown reason she is very concerned about the flies landing on her butt.  She keeps her tail clamped down, and sits down hard, tucking her butt up against the furniture or one of us, to make sure that it is protected, and she constantly looks back at her butt to make sure everything is okay.  Diezel also trys to snap up flies, but he’s not as determined or energetic as Cara is, and he doesn’t worry at all about butt defense.

One of the reasons for all the flies is the fact that I have been grilling a lot lately, and so there’s a lot of trips from the kitchen out the back door, which sometimes gets left open when my hands are full of cutting boards, tongs and plates.  And a fair amount of time has also been spent recently just hanging around next to the grill.  And I have noticed that, for some reason, we have a ton of dragonflies in our yard.  They zoom all around the yard to Diezel’s delight, but he doesn’t actually chase the dragonflies — instead, he chases their shadows flying over the grass.  We only have three saplings in our yard, and one of them was dead when we moved in, so there is plenty of sun to cast dragonfly shadows.

As I was waiting on my steaks to grill a few nights ago, and watching Diezel run hither and thither, I realized that our dead tree had become the perfect dragonfly perch.  It was like a little candelabra of dragonflies!  So I snapped a whole bunch of pictures.

And when a dragonfly zooms past Cara?  Well, she comes and sits down hard, right next to me, making very sure to protect her butt.


The Beauty of Silence

Part of the Strategies class I teach is identifying each student’s ideal study habits.  And I often tell them that I am, apparently, the last person on earth who doesn’t mind silence.  In fact, I need silence to concentrate.  Everyone else, including my students, former coworkers, and even T, all want some kind of sound in the background at all times, be that TV, music, or just people.  I’m just not like that.  And I always blame my need for silence on my parents.

I was brought up in a household where you were expected to turn off anything that you weren’t actively listening to.  So the TV never stayed on in the background, and the TV and the radio were never on at the same time.  My parents would have the radio on in the background from time to time, but it wasn’t a constant presence by any means.  So I tend to not turn anything on if I am not paying attention to it.  I have recently gotten into the habit of leaving the TV on while I check my email and goof off on my computer, but as soon as I need to focus on something, like lesson planning, the TV turns off so that I can concentrate.  I know, I’m old.

Well, after spending a few weeks taking over 1,500 photos of the books in the collection I will be selling for the herp society, I have been mostly engaged for the last week or so in editing those very same photographs in Photoshop.  All I have to do is crop, remove the background, rotate, and save.  My boss tends to listen to Pandora when he is in the office, but since all four of us who work in the office are part-time, I often find myself working alone.  When I was photographing books, it was boring, but not a big deal to spend 8 hours alone in a quiet office.  But since I have started spending that time just sitting at a desk, I realize that, when my boss is out of the office, I miss the music.

I have been telling myself for years now that music has simply never been that important to me.  I have never had much of a music collection, and never needed music on when I was at home.  Most of my exposure to music was during road trips, or just listening to the radio in the car.  It was my time to sing along at the top of my lungs, and I could make a 12-hour trip fly by just by singing along to my CDs.  And then I discovered NPR.  And books on CD.  Now, I listen to public radio most of the time that I am in the car, and books for long trips.  And I really never listen to music anymore.

But my boss’s music tastes mirror mine pretty darned closely.  It was nice hearing a lot of my old favorites while I worked, and singing along softly to them while I cropped, removed the background, rotated and saved.  I realized that I did kinda miss music.  Maybe I was wrong, maybe I had been lying to myself about not being a music person.  So I started thinking about how I could listen to my music even when the boss wasn’t around.

It took me forever to fully transition from cassettes to CDs, and I have never made the switch to MP3s.  I don’t have an MP3 player, the only music I ever had on my computer was put there so that I could burn CDs, and I don’t have any music on my phone.  I don’t have iTunes or Pandora or any other music services.  It occurred to me that I could bring T’s old Ipod to work with me, but the effort involved in getting my old music off CDs and onto it just didn’t seem worth the effort.

And then I remembered podcasts can be streamed from your computer for free.  So now I am catching up on This American Life, and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, and Radiolab when I am working alone.  And when the boss is there, I like to listen in on his music.  And sometimes I sing along, softly, so he won’t hear me.  But when I need to start posting these books to the website and writing descriptions for them, I’m pretty sure silence will descend again.  And I’m ok with that.

The Road Travelled

my new workplace: the herpetology society

It always surprises me, when I get a new job, to discover the ways in which my past jobs have directly provided the experience I need to do the new job.  Especially since it is never something that I have planned.

The first two weeks of the class I am teaching right now, Strategies for Success, deals with change and goal setting.  I spend a lot of time talking to my students about goals, planning, prioritizing, determination, and all the things that go into being Highly Motivated  and Successful People.  We go over the five steps of the Change Implementation Model — identify change, research options, identify obstacles, establish a plan, and implement it  — as well as the four steps to writing a goal — goal statement, action steps, timelines, and narrative statement.  I literally spend hours talking about the importance of setting goals, coming up with defined plans, and following through on them.  And yet I almost never do this myself.

I can’t make a weekly meal plan, because I always decide at the last minute that I’m in the mood for something else for dinner.  I can’t lay out my clothes the night before, because I’ll want to wear something different when morning rolls around.  I typically decide on the next step in my life, on what will make me happy, and do what I need to in order to get there.  Then I stay there until I am no longer happy, or until something forces me out.  And then I look around and decide on the next step.  I hate the question, “What do you see yourself doing in five/ten years?” in interviews, because the true answer is, “I have absolutely no idea.”

I do set and meet lots of short-term goals for myself, but I have never been the kind of person who decides, “I want to be X by age Y,” and then lays out a multi-year plan for achieving that goal.  I have wandered my way through life, one stepping-stone at a time.  After high school, college was a given.  After college, I didn’t want to go on to grad school right away.  An offhand comment from an advisor got me thinking about volunteering, and a few days of research landed me with the Peace Corps.  After the Peace Corps, I just wanted to be with the boyfriend I’d been on the opposite side of the planet from for the past 2 years, so I moved to the west coast.  When I became dissatisfied with retail positions, I applied for a job at a credit card company doing customer service.  When I became dissatisfied with that, a dream sent me back to grad school.  After grad school, I was tired of research and not interested in pursuing a PhD, so I wanted to teach at the community college level.  It occurred to me that I would be more well-rounded if I attended an archaeology field school, so I went on a whim.  When I couldn’t find a teaching job, I applied for an archaeology position.  When I got laid off from archaeology, I applied for more teaching positions, and actually got one.  When I didn’t get enough adjunct classes, I applied to a part-time job with a herpetology society because the hours were flexible.

And yet, each job seems to be a prerequisite for the last.  My degree in English, even though my major was creative writing, was a great stepping stone for Teaching English as a Forgeign Language in the Peace Corps.  My Peace Corps experience didn’t help much when I was working in retail, but once I got to the credit card company, the “special English” I had adopted in Kyrgyzstan was ideal for working over the phone with clients who spoke English as a second language.  I also used the grammar I learned while teaching it to my Kyrgyzstani students, and was often asked to assist the technical writer.  When I went back to grad school, the skills I had developed at the credit card company for tracking information and juggling priorities were essential for getting through my thesis.  Not to mention, the contacts I made in the Peace Corps made it possible for me to do my field research during a single 3-month summer visit.  Once I got into archaeology, the descriptive skills honed through writing poetry in my youth were essential in writing understandable reports and site records.  Even in the process of moving from CA to UT, I went from an archaeology job where I worked on an enormous Nevada pipeline project, to helping out with a large Utah pipeline project.  And all those years of writing reports in Word, keeping track of data and forms in Excel, and writing grad school presentations in PowerPoint, made it possible for me to teach a computer class.

my current work station

But this extra side job in herpetology?  It just takes the cake in terms of utilizing my past experience.  I am cataloguing and posting for online sale a number of books, prints, ceramic figurines, and other miscellaneous items that were willed to the society by two different herpetologists.  Well, I have experience with books: my very first job was in a library, I worked at the college bookstore during my undergrad years, and even got to assistant manager at an outlet bookstore after graduation.  My writing and descriptive abilities will no doubt come into play when I need to provide summarized reviews of the books, and descriptions of the objects.  But it is mostly my archaeological skills being utilized here — the ability to sort, organize, photograph, document, and track a huge assemblage of items, along with the ability to make sense of scientific and biological nomenclature.

Who would have thought that 5 years in archaeology would help me get a part-time job working for herpetologists?  Or teaching a computer class?  Or that 2 years in credit card processing would prep me for grad school?  I can’t tell if I am making the connections with hindsight, or if I have been, in my own strange way, following a path to get to where I want to go.

It almost seems as though the steps I have taken through the years have been aiming me at exactly where I want to be.  For example, if I hadn’t attended field school on a lark, I wouldn’t have gotten an job as an archaeology field tech.  And I wouldn’t have been applying to CRM firms the next spring when my landlord in Arcata decided to sell our house with 30 days notice.  And I wouldn’t have had any other reason to take a job offer and move to Redding, CA if I my housing hadn’t just disappeared.  And if I had known people in Redding before moving, I might not have decided to finally get a dog to keep me company, after halfheartedly thinking about adopting a dog for years with no action.  And if I hadn’t gotten Cara, I would never have gone to the dog park and met my husband, T.

Maybe there was a plan, and I just didn’t know about it yet.  Or maybe, if you’re lucky, following your heart will get you where you need to go, whether or not you know where that is.

My First Computer Class

So, my first term teaching a computer class is complete.  I think it is the most challenging class I have ever tackled, and I know that I made a lot of mistakes.  I feel bad that this group of students were my guinea pigs.  But in the end, I think that everyone got the grade they earned, and that makes me feel okay about the whole thing.

I have never taught a computer class before, so while I knew I would be able to handle the material (an introduction to Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel), figuring out what my class could do and how much time everything would take was the biggest challenge as I was planning out my syllabus.  And it showed.

My biggest mistake was that my syllabus was out of sync with what we actually ended up doing in class, which made things much more difficult for my students who were trying to make up work.  There were several reasons for this.

  1. I didn’t realize how few students would turn in their homework.  So I built a PowerPoint exercise on homework that should have been completed a few weeks before; when it turned out half the class hadn’t done that assignment, I had to improvise.
  2. Sometimes I didn’t read through the labs in the book carefully enough, or I overestimated my students’ abilities whle planning, and I didn’t realize until we got to that chapter that a different assignment would be a better fit.  So we did something different than what was on the syllabus.
  3. I only put the Lab or Exercise number and page number in the syllabus, but that was extremely confusing as I was grading.  So I used the titles in my grading sheet.  But that meant that, when students asked which assignments they needed to make up, I would give them the title, not the Lab or Exercise number, and they often didn’t know what page to find the assignment on.
  4. They had a crossword puzzle from the book assigned for each week, but I discovered after the first week that these puzzles were extremely difficult to complete.  It took me a few weeks to start making my own and handing them out in class, so students were always confused about whether there was a puzzle to do for homework or not.

Another big mistake I made was not using the proper names for icons and menus as I walked students through assignments.  Instead of saying, “Click on the Sum Function button” in Excel, I’d say something like, “Ok, you’re going to click on the Sum button, which is this button up here that looks like a weird E.  Yes, the button that looks like a backwards E.  The one over here.  Got it?”  This meant that, when it came time for students to follow the directions in the book in order to do their assignments, they didn’t know the proper terms and often had a hard time figuring out the directions.

I’m also unsure about whether or not I gave them too much work to do.  In each class, I would first walk them through the assignment that was described in the book chapter.  Because we did this together, they didn’t turn this assignment in to me.  Next, there would be a lab that they needed to do in class, where they would follow the directions in the book step-by-step on their own, to reinforce the tasks we had just gone over.  This was followed by a homework assignment with less specific instructions, where they had the chance to be a little more creative in how they applied what they learned.  In theory, a great model for reinforcing tasks.

But I didn’t realize how many of my students were going to not only have no computer at home, but also no time during the week to come in and use the computers at school.  And even if they could make it to the library on the weekends to use a public computer, it might not have Microsoft Office 2007 on it, which would make it impossible to do the work.  I often felt like I was rushing through the example in class, so that they would have enough time to do both the lab and the homework in class as well.  Perhaps getting rid of one of these assignments and taking more time to explain new tasks, and having more time to complete a single assignment in class, would be the way to go next time around.

by art around

Another challenge was the fact that I have never taught this population of students before, and I wasn’t prepared for the kinds of obstacles they would be facing during the semester.  As a TA, I was usually responsible for 100 or more students, and there could be upwards of 300 students in a class.  Most of them got their work done, and while I might recognize their writing style, that was pretty much all I knew about them.  The occasional student who came to see me might have a question about something we covered in class, or might be struggling with a diagnosed learning disability.  But the students were predominantly white, middle class, had done reasonably well in high school, had decent reading and writing skills, knew how to write an essay, and the worst challenge they might have during a semester would be a death in the family, or a bout of illness.

With only 4 students in one class and 13 in the other, I know a lot more about my students’ lives than before.  At this college, I would say less than half the students are white.  Many speak English as a second language.  Most don’t know how to write a grammatically correct sentence, much less a 5-paragraph essay.  I had two students struggling with homelessness during the semester, one of whom was constantly sick and exhausted from living at a shelter for months; one student without medical insurance whose toddler was ill, but her boyfriend isn’t the child’s father so only she could take her child to the emergency room; a student who will be spending 4 days in jail in order to get back her license because she can’t afford to carry car insurance; students who want to start their own business because they can’t find jobs as ex-cons; a student with serious medical problems who was on oxygen; a student who is still recovering from being the first one on scene at a parent’s suicide; another student who had been her dying mother’s full-time caregiver for the past 5 years, to the detriment of the student’s schooling and career; another who was in an abusive relationship and came to school with bruises; students without cars who need to travel 60 miles or more by bus and train to make it to class; students with work schedules that conflict with class so they are consistently late or having to leave early.

These students often barely graduated from high school, or perhaps they got a GRE.  They are trying to make a better life for themselves while working full time and juggling families, poverty, poor schooling, and other problems I have never had to worry about.  I give them a lot of credit when they are willing to work hard and give up on sleep or time with their families to overcome all kinds of odds and make a better life for themselves and their families.  These are not the kids who miss class because they are hungover from last night’s frat party.  So I let them make up assignments at any time without any penalties,  offered to tutor students outside of class, and I did what I could to encourage those who were interested to do some extra credit work to bring up their grades.  And I let the student who was so frustrated with the final exam that she actually walked out and disappeared for an hour come back and finish it for full credit.  Maybe that makes me a pushover; or maybe it makes me willing to give my students a chance to learn from their mistakes.

When all was said and done, I had a rough bell curve of grades in my class, which reassures me that I did an ok job of teaching these kids.  Three As, four B, and two each Cs, Ds, and Fs.  The students who were failing a week ago but worked hard and got their assignments in to me at the last minute all passed.  The students that I offered help or tutoring to who didn’t take me up on the offer, or who half-assed their first few makeup assignments and then gave up, failed.  And I think that’s the way it should be.

But I have so many ideas for how to do it differently next time, now that I have learned from my mistakes.

36 and 1st

T and I had a great weekend, where I got spoiled silly.  Saturday was my birthday, and Monday was our first wedding anniversary, but because our schedules would keep us from seeing each other on Monday, we decided to celebrate a little early.

On Saturday morning, T took me out for breakfast, so that I could get my favorite, eggs benedict.  Then we went shopping for a birthday present for me, a nice tote that I could carry my teaching materials in.  After hitting every store that sold luggage in the mall, I decided on the cheapest and best-looking one of the bunch, one we had seen at Burlington Coat Factory, and we headed home.

We got a gift certificate as a wedding present that we decided to use on Saturday night. I was thinking of it as an early anniversary celebration, but I think T still considered it part of my birthday.  So after leaving the dogs in the capable hands of T’s dispatcher’s son, we headed up Provo Canyon to the Sundance Resort on Saturday evening.  On the way, we stopped and had dinner at Carrabba’s Grill in Provo, which was the restaurant we chose for our rehearsal dinner.  They always have amazing Italian seafood dishes and great service, and we even tried their limoncello bread pudding for dessert.  Yum!

After dinner, we continued up to the resort, where we checked into our “room,” which was the bottom half of a little cabin in the woods.  I tried taking a photo, but my cell phone was out of battery, so visiting their website’s photo gallery will have to do if you want an idea of how beautiful it is.  There were flowers blooming all over the place — purple spikes of lupine, cobalt batchelor’s buttons, and at least 6 different colors of columbine.  Our cabin had a fireplace, a tiny kitchenette, a big flat-screen TV and a nice deck to sit on.  We relaxed, read on the deck, listened to the birds in the trees, and got thoroughly scolded by a young red squirrel as he ran up and down the trees around us.  The room had lots of nice rustic touches, like Native American tourist arts pieces and photographs, and board-and-batten panelling on the walls.  The bed was half pillows, and was very comfortable.  We had a wonderful night.

The next morning we got up and went down to the Foundry restaurant for their Sunday brunch.  There was a wide variety of excellent gourmet food — asparagus, lamb, made-on-demand omelettes, potatoes, pastries, fruit salad, bagels with lox and shmear, and a whole table of desserts, including banana split cheesecake made with fresh strawberries and banana chips.  The tab was a little steeper than your average breakfast buffet, but it was definitely worth it, and we got to sit outside on the patio, which was lovely.

We headed home in early afternoon, waved goodbye as we passed our dogsitter on his way out, and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon at home.  T and I collaborated on a yummy dinner of marinated pork loin, pasta, and shredded cabbage.  Then for dessert, we unwrapped and thawed our wedding cake topper.  I was afraid that it was going to be dry and terrible tasting, so I decided to make some blackberry ice cream (more on that later), in the hopes that at least part of our dessert would be tasty.  I got impatient waiting for the cake to thaw, so I cut two wide slices, found the center was still icy, and then popped them into the microwave.  I was also being impatient about letting the ice cream set up, so we had soft-serve with our cake.  As it turned out, the ice cream was tasty, but the cake was still moist and absolutely delicious!  It was lemon cake with strawberry filling and royal icing, and while the icing was falling off the cake, it was amazing!  Cakes by Dawna definitely did an amazing job on this cake. (The two layers of cling wrap and about 10 layers of tinfoil probably didn’t hurt, either.  *smile*)

(we didn't feed each other this time around)

Taking After Dad

Growing up, I was always told that I took after my dad.  When I was little, my mom would take my hair and pull it across my face in place of his mustache and beard, and say I looked just like him.  I was also told from a young age that I would be “looking Dad in the eye” when I grew up, meaning that I should expect to be at least 6 feet tall to match up to his 6’2″ frame.  This was a quote from my pediatrician, based on the rough estimate of doubling a toddler’s height.  I was also frequently told that I thought like my dad, a very logical man who has been a computer programmer for the past 30 years.  I remember a middle school birthday of mine that centered around a scavenger hunt, only instead of a straight list of objects to find, each object was presented as a clue that had to be decoded.  We split into two teams, and my team smoked the other one, principally because I was best equipped to understand my dad’s clues.  One of them was something like “a dapper flower,” and I was the only one who knew he meant a dandilion.

As I got older, I realized that I wasn’t exactly like my dad, which was disturbing at times.  When a school nurse told me at age 13 or so that I wouldn’t grow past 5’8″, I was crushed.  I managed to squeak out another 2 inches — Dad had had a late growth spurt, too — but I topped out 2 inches shorter than the 6 foot I had always been told to expect.  While he has a PhD in applied mathematics, I struggled through trigonometry in high school and nearly failed pre-calculus.  And when we go to family reunions, all of my mom’s cousins immediately exclaim that I look exactly like her, not like my dad.  But we both have heads that hold on to unusual facts; we both love telling anecdotes, and half of his stories are now in my repertoire; we both like reading science fiction; and we both like to flex our vocabulary muscles from time to time.

As an intellectual computer programmer, it’s hard to find Father’s Day cards for my dad.  He doesn’t play golf; he’s not really into cars; he’s not a big beer drinker; he doesn’t fish; and he’s good at basic woodworking, but I wouldn’t consider him the handyman type.  So I tend to go for the dad card with the puns — that’s him, the guy who loves to use a clever choice of words to make you groan.  In fact, when I called and wished him a happy Father’s Day this morning, he thanked me for the card I picked this year, and said he understood his “pun-ishment.”

But something unexpected came from that call.  I mentioned what I said above — the fact that he doesn’t have many of the stereotypical interests that are found on Father’s Day cards.  And he said he had recently been talking to a coworker about watching a sports game, and the coworker mentioned he was going to go watch it with his dad.  My dad went on to say that my grandfather had never been into sports — possibly because he had been orphaned at a young age, and always had to work.  As a result, my dad’s mild interest in sports didn’t come from my grandfather — he had picked that up elsewhere.  And the fishing trips that he had gone on with his dad and brothers weren’t something that he had passed down to my sister and I.

I guess we don’t always bring the traits of our parents with us as we grow up.  Maybe I won’t play mah-jong, or bocce ball, or mini-golf with my kids.  Maybe they won’t have my crafty side, or my love of images, or my curiosity about other cultures.  But that will be okay, because I don’t expect my kids to be a carbon copy of me — any more than my dad expected me to be a carbon-copy of him, no matter how much I take after him.


Best. Teacher. EVAR.

Now that I’ve been at this teaching thing for about 2 weeks, I’m starting to get used to our new schedule, but it’s not ideal.  T gets up between 4 and 6 am, gets ready, kisses me goodbye, and heads off to work.  I roll out of bed somewhere between 8 and 9 am, get dressed and have breakfast.  I spend the morning making sure I have everything ready for class, which includes making PowerPoint presentations, polishing my lesson plans, grading homework, transferring all the files I’ll need for that night to my thumb drive, and checking 3 different email accounts (personal, work, and the one I made for my students).  Once that is done, I can worry about doing my daily job search (since I am still claiming unemployment as an underemployed part-time instructor), checking Facebook (of course!) or blogging, running errands or walking the dogs, and keeping on top of things around the house like laundry and dishes.  I try to skip lunch these days, maybe skating by with a piece of fruit or a small snack, because I need to start making dinner by about 3 pm.  There are also a few text messages during the day, where T and I check in with each other and make sure we’re both alive.  I eat half of the dinner I cooked, put the remainder on a plate in the fridge for T, and head out the door to school by 4:30 at the latest.

Class starts at 5:30 pm on Mondays and Wednesdays, and at 6 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I get paid for an office hour of sorts, so I ensure that I am available on campus half an hour before each class.  When I get there, I spend a few minutes in the parking lot lint-rolling the dog hair off me.  I’m sure any staff and students who see me think I’m insane, but oh well.  Then I need to check my emails again, print out my lesson plan and other teaching materials, and make copies of anything I need to hand out.  A short hike across the parking lot to the annex will get me into the classroom the required 10 minutes before class starts, so that the laptop is started up, the projector is on, and my SmartBoard is calibrated before my students show up.  I teach until 9:50 pm, put the laptop away, hike back across the parking lot to turn in my class roster, and drive home, getting there around 10:15 pm.

When I open the garage door, I am usually greeted by the dogs, and go upstairs to change out of my work clothes before they get too much more dog hair on them.  T is already in bed, snoring like a hibernating bear, with a light left thoughtfully on in the bathroom for me.  I change into pjs, and head back downstairs to unwind in front of the TV until 11:30 or midnight, with T’s snores wafting downstairs for accompaniment.  I sneak into bed next to T, and then the whole cycle starts all over again.  Until Friday, when I can do whatever I want all day, and I get to see by husband when he gets home from work, usually somewhere around 7 or 8 pm.

I guess it could be worse: I could be living in a hotel room in Nevada for 10 days at a time, and only get to see him 4 days a month, instead of 12.  (I’m also hoping that the combination of one less meal plus 4 hours of standing and pacing each day will result in some weight loss that I don’t have to put any real effort into.  But we’ll see if that actually happens. )

The classes themselves are still pretty hit-or-miss, too.  I seem to have more success with my Strategies class, where I only have 4 students.  The class is based on discussion of topics like priorities, reading skills, and managing exam anxiety, and I have a few talktative students who do a good job of keeping the ball rolling.  I can usually stretch conversations if I overestimated the amount of time certain activities would take, and everyone is engaged and usually having a good time.  The homework assignments are fairly easy, and everyone does them.

My computer class is a whole other story.  Some days I have too much work for them to do; other days I have too little.  As I walk everyone through performing functions in MS Office, some people get it right away, while others struggle, so I know there is a lot of time spent sitting there either waiting for the next command or falling behind and feeling completely lost.  Several students regularly show up late, as much as 40 minutes into class.  One girl always leaves 30 minutes early so that she can get to work.  There’s a lot of confusion, when students don’t follow instructions, and I have to demonstrate what they are doing wrong one-on-one.  Even written directions aren’t read and followed.  Some students constantly complain about the work and ask for ways do get around doing the work.  At least half of the class is just not turning in any homework, and I suspect that they are ignoring me in class as well, and spending their time on Facebook.  I try not to take it all personally, but it’s hard; I feel responsible for keeping everyone learning and motivated, and it’s hard to do.

One of the biggest obstacles to teaching this class was the fact that I didn’t have Office 2007 at home!  That meant I couldn’t practice or adapt my lesson plans from home.  I asked if the college would give me a license, but they said no.  So I finally just decided to buy the update and call it a business expense on my taxes.  Hopefully being able to spend more time running through the lessons at home will make my life, and my class, a lot easier and better!