On Starting Another Fall Quarter

fall-quarter-starts

I have fond memories of Indian Summer in Seattle. The air is warm, the nights are beginning to cool and get shorter, and there’s the smell of freshly sharpened pencils and new shoes all around. Fall feels like back to school, and it’s no wonder that this rhythm feels comforting to me. I love academia. I enjoyed my time in K-12 schooling, and certainly continued to enjoy my time in college and further on in graduate school. I enjoyed the school environment so much I got a job in Academia, and here I am, beginning my third year as a college instructor.

This quarter I had the privilege of teaching outside of my normal program, in a First Year Experience class with incoming freshman. It was so refreshing to teach my similar human development coursework to these bright eyed and bushy tailed incoming freshman. To create a mini community a week before classes start and see how they interact with the material. I loved it, even though I am exhausted from teaching 5 hours straight and then holding office hours. I remember that I’m an introvert.

And it makes me extremely pleased when students come up and ask me, ‘what class do you teach here? can I take it?’ Unfortunately I only teach classes in a program for students who’ve dropped out of high school, so they won’t be in one of my classes again. I guess it makes me think…is there something more for me? If these students wanted to take a class from me, what would it be? Would I like to someday teach Psychology 101, or English 101, or another course subject? And if I do want that, how do I go about getting there?

I forget how much I love teaching at this level.  I forget, when I’m in the overly frantic summer quarter off, trying to cram camping trips and house projects into my three months off, that I live for this academic school year rhythm. I am not sure that I would love it so much without the break, that it leaves room for me to come back in the Fall with an “Ah, yes, this is what I’m meant to do.”

But it leaves me thinking, pondering, reflecting, on where I am and where I want to go in the future. I know that this is right for me right now. I absolutely believe that. I think it’ll be right for me for a little bit more, at least, but then what? Where is this ship going?

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Date Night? Screw That! Let’s have a date day!

Taking advantage of the fact that a) Boof hasn’t started work yet (9 more days, folks!), b) we’d already paid up for the week on daycare and let’s not ruin Potamus’ excellent attendance record (7 days to be exact AND let’s not ruin his getting used to the schedule) and c) it’s a holiday for us education/government folk, we headed off into the great foggy gray city of Seattle for a fun-filled date day.

Per usual, our date was planned around food, the doughnut shop in Pike Place Market and a groupon at this divey bar for lunch. We arrived at the market BEFORE there was anyone around, which is a first, and we got to see our city through the eyes of a tourist…but, like a backstage tourist at Disneyland where you get to see Mickey without his head on and where they fold the sheets. Because the flowers and produce were set up, but none of the other vendors. BONUS was getting coffee in the first  Starbucks..there was NO line. None. Zip. Zero. Nobody else in the store except us. Which has never happened (hence why I’ve never been in there in the, ahem, 30 years I’ve been alive…also, nobody gives coffee to a baby, so maybe there wasn’t a line when I was a kid, but I don’t remember…).

We walked, and talked, and took photos with my sweet new cell phone camera. Wet met up for lunch with an old co-worker(twice) and friend. And to top of the excellent day, was going to pick Potamus up at daycare/school, only to find him HAPPILY playing and he crawled over with a HUGE smile on his face, instead of his normal I’m-so-happy-I’m-going-to-cry-because-you-might-leave-again face that he normally gives me when I get there. Heartwarming.

Though, I’m pretty plumb tuckered out, and there’s still a few hours left until I get to sleep!

PIke Place Market

Monk-Monk in front of market sign

date day!

The First

First Starbucks trip!

A little snack, perhaps?

they painted the trees blue

inside the market

foggy Seattle day

Daycare/School Day #1

I managed to wait unti 3pm to call and check-in on Potamus at daycare/school. Boof called at 10:30 and gave me a text report that eased my mind enough to get back to my crazy first-day-back-to-work. Why the college decided to have the first day back to work be the first day that students start class, too, is beyond me. But hey, we’re surviving!

Daycare Day 1

When I went to pick him up he seemed surprised, but was happily munching on cheerios in his high chair. He didn’t seem abnormally clingy, and didn’t protest when I nursed him and then popped him in the carseat for our ride home. Once home we played and he seemed SO happy, even “Bollywood” dancing in his bedroom and reading lots of stories. I’m hoping that school is a good place for my extroverted little chap!

And I didn’t cry. I am sure he’ll have cranky sad days, but overall it made me feel so good that he was only sad for about 15 minutes in the morning, and did amazing at naptime (2.5 hours on his mat!). Go Potamus!

Homeschool, Public School and Career Development

A few years ago, when working at a non-profit with my good friend Russ, we had a discussion about career development as it pertained to the youth we served. All of our kiddos were in foster care, and we were attempting to help them graduate high school and go on to college. The high school success rate for students in foster care is pretty abysmal, so our organization was trying everything it could to help these students see the value in education. But the conversation that Russ and I had, was about how school wasn’t always about education, or rather the information that we learned during the hours of 7-3, but rather the other skills that we absorbed that were important in preparing us for the working world. Russ and I participated in a leadership team that was guiding the future of the organization and yet we often found that the “leadership” wasn’t really listening to those of us that were on the front lines. I wish I could remember the study that told us, that freshman year was a great predictor in graduation rates, and how the “soft skills” that were learned were actually more important than knowing all of the presidents or when WWII started.

How does this relate to my class today?

Well, Russ and I are now both “professors” at this local college. And we re-connected a few weeks ago in a work capacity, talking about how our students are prepared or unprepared for life on a college campus. We rekindled this discussion from a few years ago, and I mentioned that in the self-reflections that I had my students write the home schooled students mentioned things like, “I haven’t taken English in over 3 years so writing this paper is hard for me,” and “I am not used to turning things in on a deadline, so I guess I have to work on that,” and ” I’m used to studying things I like.” My public school students said things like, “I am worried about turning in all of my homework,” and “I’m worried about not showing up to class like I’ve done before.”

In this way, I feel like both models have failed our children in various ways. Because, as Russ and I keep talking about, education/schooling is really (whether right or wrong) about preparing workers…drones…people to work in offices from 8-5. The byproduct of education is knowledge and a passion for learning and a curiosity for life around us. It helps to foster discussions and probably makes us better, more informed, people. I love learning about new things, but what I also learned, from kindergarten-12th grade, and then on into higher education was: show up on time, do the work you are asked to do, follow directions, interact with people, pay attention, turn things in on time, sit still, etc. All of these skills are transferable to the workplace, predominately office work of some type.

So, my home school students, who have been encouraged to study things they like and are interested in, will hopefully benefit from their education by finding a career that interests them, because they have had the empowerment to already begin to explore those interests. What worries me about my home school kiddos, is that they haven’t been forced (such  a nasty word!) to do things that they aren’t that interested in, just because “this is the way the world works,” or “this is the way we do it.” If they don’t find a career right away in the interesting field of their choice, or even if they do, will they know how to be timely in assignments that they don’t like? For my student who hasn’t ever had a deadline for things, will, at 19, it be too late for them to learn? How much harder will it be for them to conform to a mold of “normal” career development or as a worker when they have been allowed years of unbridled educational freedom? Or, can we envision a new workforce that allows for this to not be the case? (Things like, the rise of flex-time, and online work, perhaps might fit this).

And, for some of my public schoolers, who have been, seemingly broken down and lack a drive for education (the pursuit of knowledge and information), but also have not learned the soft-skills of timeliness, and turning in work that they don’t see the value in, what hope do they have? When they do come to class, they do the work (most of them), which shows a good work ethic, regardless of whether they find value in the actual assignment. When explaining the per-requisite nature of the classes for the major, I hear no grumbling like with the home schooled students, because these student seem used to the ‘jumping through hoops’ nature of the education system. In theory, though, public school does teach these skills of being on-time (and natural consequences are getting a lower grade, which would equate to a reprimand and firing at a job), sitting doing “work” for hours on end, short breaks (5 minute passing time), and being forced to do some tasks that you don’t really want to do.

I don’t know the answer, but it does seem like, in theory, our education is supposed to prepare us for our jobs, and it’s seemingly failing both sets of my students. I wonder how a mainstream teacher, not dealing with “high school dropouts” or “non-traditional students,” feels about how their students are prepared/unprepared for college work and/or work post-school. Is the disillusionment that our time is our own and we can do what we want and study what we want better to happen early in our education career (ala public school) or at the entrance into college (ala my homeschoolers)?

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey: A Movie Review

I wasn’t allowed to watch much television as a child, save Mr. Rogers, so my experience with The Muppets and Sesame Street is rather limited. My conservative Christina parents did not like that Count Dracula was a vampire, and had various other misgivings about the whole Jim Henson world, so my exposure is a few random snippets of the shows over the years. However, I was around during the Tickle-Me-Elmo phase, and while mystified by the appeal of a squeling red doll, I did recognize that The Muppets and Sesame Street characters were influential to most of my peers. In fact, thanks to my height, Big Bird, was one of my nicknames growing up!

So, in looking for documentaries that showcase career development or overcoming obstacles, I came across Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey, which chronicled the life and work of Kevil Clash, as he pursued his dream of being a puppeteer, and eventually gave Elmo the voice and character that we know today. While thinking of myself as a reasonably interested individual, the ADD media generation has certainly worn off on me, so I give documentaries about 5 (long feeling) minutes to grab my attention. If the documentary fails to draw me in in that time, no matter how good it might get further along, I am done and moving on to the next one. This is what happened while prepping for my lesson. I started on documentary and BLOOP moved onto another and BLOOP moved on to another until FINALLY I stumbled across Being Elmo.

I was skeptical at first. How would this relate to my life, let alone the lives of my students? But hot dang, the first five minutes went by and I was rivited. The storytelling is magical, and really shows how Kevin followed his dream against the odds and ended up doing something that he loves. While I did feel that it was redundant toward the end (think minutes last 10 minutes), the fact that it kept my attention for so long was amazing.

So regardless of whether you grew up loving The Muppets or Sesame Street, or, like me, you have limited exposure to it, this documentary will entertain you and leave you inspired. I am excited to share the story with my students, in hopes to inspire them to follow THEIR dreams like Kevin did!