#weekendcoffeeshare: no dying allowed edition

If we were having coffee, reading would be a nice, uncontroversial subject to talk about. I read two and a half entire books yesterday, which is both impressive and not impressive: the two entire books were a novella and a novelette, respectively, Robert Jackson Bennett’s Vigilance and Warren Ellis’ Dead Pig Collector. The two took maybe an hour and a half taken together. Then again, the half book was the back half of Dune, so I think I still get credit for reading a lot yesterday. I’ll likely finish a book today– I’m reading Mallory Ortberg’s The Merry Spinster right now, and it’s another short one, so whatever I go to after that probably ought to have some meat to it.

That said, it would probably be best to choose an oval or rectangular table, and maybe we ought to be sitting at the far ends. I thought yesterday I was most of the way out of my cold, and then we went out to dinner and got seated too close to the door and I kept getting blasted with cold air. I feel distinctly worse than I did yesterday, and in a different way from how I’ve felt poorly over the last several days. I already know that the week after this one is going to be short, between Presidents’ Day and an inservice I’m attending on the 22nd, so I’m running out of weeks where I might be at work all five days in February. I don’t have enough sick days left right now so I’d really prefer for this shit just to go away now, please. I’m pretty sure what I had last week wasn’t contagious but hell if I know what I’m heading into right now. Whee!

The good news: Sunday is a good day to sit around and binge The Great British Baking Show, and being moderately sick gives me all the excuse I need. I’m watching the most recent season right now, and … man, are these folks British. Most of the stuff they’re making from episode to episode is stuff I’ve never heard of, too, which is always fun– and half the time it’s stuff the contestants have never heard of. It’s not a bad show. Check it out, if you happen to have a Netflix subscription.

What’s been up with you lately?

shut up shut up shutupSHUT UP

On the heels of last night’s admission that spending half an hour talking about education with a couple of very talented teachers made me actually miss teaching, I woke up at an indecent hour last night to an email from my boss warning me that I was likely to have to spend a good portion of today and Monday covering classes, specifically 7th grade math, which you may remember was my major subject during the last year where I was actually a full-time, entire-year teacher.

This ended up not working out because of several preexisting commitments, but I did teach math during sixth, seventh, and eighth hour today. And I’ll admit it: I had fun. It was nice.

(I didn’t do any lesson planning or grading or really have to deal with any discipline issues. I shut them up at the beginning of class, let them know that if they were silent and respectful while I explained my rules I’d give them a generous leash during class, and then went from table to table checking in and answering questions during class. In other words, I only did the fun part of the job. Hell, I didn’t even have to do any whole-group shit! That might have required classroom management!)

I am not going back into the classroom next year, Goddammit. I’m not. No. And I’d appreciate it if the universe would quit trying to contrive situations where it pretends that thinking about returning to the classroom is anything other than a cataclysmically bad life decision.

In other news, it has been a solid four days since I’ve had a decent night’s sleep, despite sleeping for about 20 hours on Wednesday, and I’d appreciate it if that could happen tonight. I’m mostly over the cold, which is now only manifesting itself in occasional acute and intense bouts of dry throat, but I’m surprised at how functional I am given how little useful sleep I’ve had lately.

In which I am in the presence of excellence

Just a quick note today again, because while I made it to work today and got through the entire day I’m still feeling pretty shit: we had a parent-teacher conference today. It was prescheduled, mind you, as it’s the time of year for these things, so it’s not like it was one of those YOU MUST COME IN NOW AND DISCUSS YOUR CHILD WITH US sorts of things.

I think the highest compliment I can possibly pay to my son’s teachers is that they make me miss teaching. I mean, in general the quality of the staff at Hogwarts is pretty damn high, but I am going to seriously miss him being in first grade with the teachers that he has, and– and I say this without even knowing the names of the second grade teachers, so I could very well be wrong– we are going to seriously have to prepare for a letdown next year, because there’s just no way he’s lucky enough to get people this good in charge of his education two years in a row.

I mean, yeah, it didn’t take that long of having a non-education job for me to miss being around education and around kids, but moments in the past two or three years where I missed teaching itself are vanishingly rare. And every time I sit down with these folks I spend the entire conversation thinking yes, that’s exactly how you should handle that and yes, that’s exactly what I tried to do on my best days in this job and yes, that’s exactly the sort of mind-set I want you to have about my son, who is smart as hell but who is manifestly not perfect and absolutely has any number of things that we want him to try harder and do better with.

And it’s every single conversation I have with them. I just hope he realizes how fucking lucky he is. I wish everyone had teachers this good.

In which I leave the house

We just got back from Doing a Thing, the annual Science Alive! event at the main branch of the St. Joseph County Public Library in downtown South Bend. This is the third year my wife has taken my son; I didn’t go the last two years because I was working every Saturday. It’s an interesting event; they basically take over the library with tons of booths and exhibits (too many, honestly; there’s stuff everywhere you turn, and tons of people, and I was stressed out from trying to keep from bumping into people or knocking little kids over) and most of them are hands-on in some way or another, which is pretty cool.

The ground floor was basically a mini-4H fair, with a lot of vaguely bemused-looking farm kids letting the terrified city folk do stuff like pet chickens, with the occasional pig or snake thrown in for good measure.

The upper floors were more … science-fair-ish, I guess? Not in the sense of people showing off experiments, but more like lots of table staffed by local college kids demonstrating some aspect of SCIENCE! to the kids. The weird thing was a lot of the time the science they were wanting to talk about was miles beyond the comprehension level of the small kids (my son is 7, and he was about average for the crowd, and there were a lot of kids way younger) who were there. I spent a couple of minutes watching some poor woman who is probably an excellent teacher when she’s surrounded by college students who want doctorates gamely struggling to relate square dancing and mathematics and fractions to each other … somehow? She literally had a whiteboard covered with equations next to her and I had to keep myself from bursting out laughing when she, entirely seriously, asked the group of elementary-age kids in front of her who wanted to square dance what the negative reciprocal of 1/2 was.

I would wager that, if you threw out the actual scientists, no more than 10% of the adults in the building could tell you what a negative reciprocal is. I mean, it’s not a difficult concept, but it’s not one of those things that most folk need to worry about, y’know? Then there was an entire room full of particle physics folks and one lonely astronomer. And, like, okay, radiation’s cool, and particle accelerators are cool, and whatever the spinny ball-balancy thing that my son was so enthralled with was neat, but I found myself wondering if anybody at all was thinking about age-appropriateness when they put this all together. Waving a hand-made Giger counter at a piece of Fiestaware is pretty neat, but I’m pretty certain that despite a valiant effort at explaining radioactivity by the two Ph.D candidates behind the table, it really didn’t get anywhere with my kid.

So. Yeah. Interesting event, but they maybe need to think a bit harder about the age group they’re pitching to and how they’re going to do that in the future.

In which I’m dumb again

School was back in session today, finally, albeit with a two-hour delay to let the last of the below-zero temperatures bleed away before the kids had to be outside waiting for buses. Unsurprisingly, facing a shortened Friday after three days off something like 48% of the student body opted to not bother coming to school, so it was really peaceful around the building today.

I showed up for work today in a button-down grey shirt, sleeves rolled up (I always roll up my sleeves; I despise the feeling of fabric on my lower arms for some reason,) with a blue-and-purple Jerry Garcia tie and a brand-new purple sweater vest. It marked the first time in my life I’d ever deliberately worn a sweater vest, and my last thought after looking in the mirror before going to work was I have never looked more like a middle-aged middle school teacher in my life than I do right now.

I didn’t mean to buy the goddamn sweater vest. It was literally a stupid accident. I was at the fat man store last week sometime buying T-shirts (as it turns out, my policy of buying shirts at the cons I go to has put me in a position where most of my wearable T-shirts are con shirts now, and I needed to reassert the proper solid-color balance) and I saw the sweater on a table on the way out. I liked the color and the subtle pattern and I bought it on a whim, not realizing until I got home and unfolded it to hang up that it was a damn sweater vest. I don’t even know why I dislike sweater vests so much; it’s an irrational prejudice but I still have it.

A sensible person would have just returned the sweater; I’m keeping it out of spite. Against, apparently, myself and my own bad decisions.

And then two different kids over the course of the day compared me to Rick Ross, who, if you don’t know, is the dude in the picture up there, a picture I obtained by Googling “Rick Ross sweater vest”. One might think that that might be a sign that sweater vests are perhaps his thing, but no, it turns out shirtlessness is more his thing, and I will never as long as I live be photographed shirtless, full-body torso tattoos or not. I think the kids probably thought they were making fun of me, but I feel like any day where I walk out of the house thinking I could not possibly look more like a middle-aged middle-school teacher and then get compared to a famous and wealthy rapper is a good day even if the main point of comparison is that we’re both fat and bald and have bushy beards. I’ll take what I can get, dammit.