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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Culture Shift

            In describing events from the past semester to a friend who has been in education far long than I, he immediately nailed down exactly what has happened at my school. The culture has shifted. The policies of primary, secondary, and even higher education have created a new kind of culture, one that rebels against any kind of challenge, and places the teacher on the lowest rung.
            He’s right. He’s experiencing it at his school in a different way, but this is absolutely what is happening at every level of education.

            I can’t help but think of the zombie apocalypse movies. This time, however, students, politicians, administrators, and even parents are becoming zombies, and they’re all out to get the teachers. And this isn’t the fun kind of zombie movie where a cure can be found or the plucky resistance can win out.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Architecture & Writing

            Architects (I imagine) begin in much the same way as writers: a blank page. From there we differ largely, I think. An architect will sketch out a drawing, adding onto it rendering a complete outside shell. From there they move on to create he insides, rendering it into blueprints that takes into account all of the structure’s needs.
            Writers—okay, I won’t generalize. I start with a blank page, but then I move onto a single idea. It’s usually a sentence. A question. Most of the time it begins with “what if. . . ?” That sentence becomes the heart of the entire book, spreading out from there, but it’s haphazard, a hairsbreadth away from random. I know about the long held debate about plotters vs. planners, but I think even the plotters have a haphazard growth to their books. It doesn’t take much for a character to end up derailing a plot, or for a scene to work in your brain but bomb on paper. We add on new growths to just stick on and hang off the novel. In no way is a novel a streamlined structure.

            Architects have it pretty easy in that regard. No one would buy a novel if they could see a complete outline of how it looked on paper.

Friday, July 25, 2014

F3 Folk Remedy

            I sneezed, then coughed, then winced as my lungs burned and my head pounded. I barely propped my head upright on the couch as I watched TV. I didn’t know what was on. I didn’t care. All I knew was the misery of a super cold in the middle of July. I had spent three days—four?—on this couch, slipping in and out of sleep.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Year Ago

            Last year at this time I was hanging out in Boston with one of my best friends. It was awesome. I was able to recharge my creativity and kick start my brain for other endeavors, as well. I then moved on to have an excellent trip to DC with my brother.
            This year sees me under more financial stress so I couldn’t take another vacation, but change is on the horizon. If things work out even moderately well, I should have another vacation soon.

            That said, this summer has still been restorative. I’ve enjoyed taking my brain off the hook for certain things and made progress on so many other projects. I hope to keep up the momentum.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Looking at Self-Publishing with a New Eye

            I’ve never been disdainful of self-publishing. I know it can work for many people, but I have been more standoffish with it for a number of reasons. Foremost, I like agents. They’re good people. They’re knowledgeable. They shoulder a lot of work for writers, and they know how to navigate the potential hazards. I still want one.
            But other aspects of self-publishing are not as daunting as they used to be. The idea of self-marketing and promotion isn’t as scary as it once was, thanks in large part to a marketing book more about marketing business than books (of course, the writer is the business when it comes to self-publishing, so it still works).
            So I’m beginning to entertain the idea again, but one thing still holds me back: time. Marketing one’s self as a self-published author takes an immense amount of time, and time is ever a luxury, especially with a small business emerging.

            I think I’m going to continue networking for a little longer while polishing some of my books, and test the waters again. I’ll reassess after that.

Friday, July 18, 2014

F3 The Retreat

            Our flight from Peru to Antarctica took less than an hour because of the plentiful clouds over the Andes. Natalie and I simply chained our lightning together, zipping along Tarzan-style.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


            The risks of teaching are many, mostly the unimpressive rewards present themselves as a risk, but now greater risks are emerging. Administration that supports their own ends and casts teachers aside. Students who number 80% apathetic and 15% belligerent (if you’re lucky the 5% is filled with students who truly care and will work to excel, but more often than not those are the students who care just enough to get by, barely edging out the apathetics).
            The mental and emotional stress on teachers dealing with all of these risks are simply too great. WE can’t justify remaining in a profession like this. Record numbers of teachers are making their exits at every level. Some retire early, others find new avenues.

            I hope they can get out before risk turns into trauma.

Monday, July 14, 2014


            This is a basic economic principle (but like many economic principles it’s not well understood [or even defined]) that basically states people evaluate whether or not the positive outweighs the negative.
            For teachers the reward has always been pretty small. Our paychecks are unimpressive at every scale. Our benefits are likewise. Even the vaunted summer vacation that everyone points to is really nothing. Most teachers spend their summers in preparation for the next school year by developing curriculum or attending workshops and seminars. Also, since the paycheck is unimpressive, many teachers elect to do summer school in order to make ends meet.
            The reward was always stacked by one thing, students who learned. We take joy at watching students learn and excel, knowing we’ve made a difference in their lives. These students have never been the majority, either, but they were enough to keep us going.

            I sense that shifting. It’s no longer enough for many of us. It’s a dying profession, one that will not attract the types of teachers the students need, but rather the ones that make themselves popular and easy.

Friday, July 11, 2014

F3 Skyseeing

            The ride took over an hour, but going from Nebraska to Peru couldn’t be done more quickly than by hanging onto lightning. In fact we didn’t come out of the upper atmosphere the entire time, watching the sprites fly by.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Beyond Our Abilities

            When does a job become intolerable? At what point is someone justified in saying it’s a lost cause? When can we walk out and not suffer guilt over the decision?
            Teaching is one of these professions where we’re supposed to suffer through because of how noble the profession is. The intrinsic rewards of teaching are supposed to offset everything else, and that we’re naturally supposed to be long-suffering and should accept all kinds of adversity in order to continue at this noble profession.
            A teacher who quits is somehow seen as a traitor to the entire profession, but the same stigma isn’t attached to other professions. If a computer programmer, manager, lawyer, chef, or other career wanted to change up and do something else, it’s a life change, and one that is generally regarded as a good idea.

            Why is it that teachers are seen as traitors? Why can’t teachers become fed up and want something more from their lives?

Monday, July 7, 2014

An Instructor Who Cares

            This is something tossed about a lot, but I think that teachers and students have very different definitions of what it means.
            Student’s perspective: Teacher is available outside of class. Teacher answers all of my questions whenever I ask them. Teacher gives me good grades. Teacher praises all my efforts. Teacher makes allowances for things in my life (work, family, other classes).
            Teacher’s perspective. Teacher is available outside of class within reason (teachers do have lives outside of teaching and have to deal with other work, other classes, and family just like students). Teacher answers questions that are reasonable (many questions are answered in class and by the syllabus, so there’s no need to repeat ourselves). Teachers praise efforts that are worth praising. Other efforts receive constructive criticism in order to encourage improvement. Teacher makes reasonable allowances. Everyone has a life with ups and downs, and it’s not fair to everyone if some people can get away with not attending class or turning in assignments late (and teachers are those who also have other things in life).
            I think this fundamental disparity, and the increasing number of students who insist on their way, is having a detrimental effect on teaching as a profession.
            And I have no idea on how to fix it.

            I’m not sure I want to try.

Friday, July 4, 2014

F3 Fireworks

            “I still do not know how you talked me into this,” Nikki said.
            The waters of Badon Bay were perfect this time of year, and we sat halfway between Larson and the coast. The lights on the Fairhaven shore were easy to see, as was this year’s barge. Other boats got closer, right up to the perimeter that Belport’s Coast Guard would allow.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Still Even More Tales from the Semester

            Again, I’ve been sitting on this, weighing how I feel about it. A colleague  received a scathing message from a student. This in itself is not unusual. We’ve all gotten them before. I even had a student who ripped into me because I would withdraw her from the class after the semester had ended (other teachers, however, allowed this).
            The scathing message, though, was cumulative. After all of the stress, the indignities, and incidents from the semester, it was, in my friend’s words, “the last straw.”
            In two years time she went from a completely dedicated instructor who was widely recognized for her compassion, creativity, and going well above and beyond to help her students. Before this last year, she had never had a student complain or send a scathing message to her.
            But that was then. This is now. The student population has shifted. Such complaints about instructors are now commonplace, even habitual. It seems that the only way an instructor can avoid complaints is to become a poor instructor. If an instructor makes a course ridiculously easy, never challenges students to think, never offers any kind of constructive criticism (because obviously the students are already perfect at everything) they will be regarded well by the students and be successful.

            More and more teachers are reaching the final straw. And the ones who remain? Well, I know many of us are eyeing the door, waiting and planning for the time to be free.
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