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Doldrums

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Stealing a few strokes at the keyboard as students behind me murmur lines about schoolboys going to school with heavy looks while they comb Romeo and Juliet for motifs. Later in the period it’s a quick review of the 4th quarter calendar with due dates for upcoming projects, and then we’ll watch as ill-fated George Clooney and Marky Mark climb the big wave for the last time at the end of a movie we didn’t find time to finish last quarter.

Tying up loose ends, choreographing weeks to come… must be the end of April, that pause before the real perfect storm (AP’s, SOL’s, and final exams) upends the fourth quarter.

Sitting here in limbo, I can’t help but cast my eye back to the last time I took a deep breath. In “The Lull Before the Storm” (August 21, 2007) I wrote an existential to do list from this then more silent trailer, which included plans to write a book, change jobs, master technology, and be a better man.

My progress, respectively: sort of, maybe, kind of, and still trying. Here are some details.

1. I could write a book… if I write a book proposal. My dreams of a subsidized writing summer seem to have slipped away in the blur of the school year, but this blog helped me move in the right direction by providing a place to work out ideas about metacognitive practice and lessons that are engaging and multimodal. A title popped out of a fortune cookie over a free lunch with an ASCD editor: Formative Assessment in a Student-Centered Classroom. Real progress was on hold while I worked on my National Board retake, but that excuse is gone. Next step, in theory, is a table of contents and a few sample chapters. In practice, for the next two weeks I’m catching up on night school papers and then the end of the year crunch here at TJ.

2. The Truth Window… I peeked through it at a few independent school head jobs and quickly discovered that I’m not going to slide into the top spot without spending a few years climbing the ladder in other administrative roles. Since then I’ve adjusted my sights and conducted a limited local search. I’m prepared to move if a great job opens up, and to stay in my current great job otherwise. One pleasant discovery is that there is a legitimate hybrid role as teacher-administrator in the private school world that simply doesn’t exist in public schools (though it should).

3. Tech mojo…my kids blogged and wiki’d their way through some Great Books and science papers, and I discovered that tapping into 2.0 really does get qwerty kids to talk to each other. The technology isn’t an end in itself, but it fosters collaborative writing and thinking in a way that good old marble comp books can’t. I may never become a card-carrying 2.0er (microblogging at Twitter seems unlikely given that I can count the number of text messages I’ve sent in my life on one hand). Then again, if a dude who made his students build a dugout canoe with stone tools can do it, so can you.

4. Mo’ better… hmm, depends what day. The latest adventure in parenting involves getting our 7-year old to sleep by himself. Having exhausted our normal repertoire—negotiation, bribery, and yelling—now we’re seeking professional help. The counselor wants us to share “happies and crappies” every night at the dinner table. I’d tell you more about how it’s working but I’m about to fall asleep at the keyboard.

1 Comment

Hey Emmet.
Only four items on your existential to-do list? I have had as many as fifteen amorphous goals down on paper in August. The odd thing is--in the struggle between urgent and important, some of what seems so vital and central kind of drifts off after the pursuit begins. "Get a PhD" has been on my list for years. Then I actually started working on one and found out it was not about Seeking Truth, but more like seeking completion, and on some doldrum days, seeking a parking spot.

But it is important to set goals.

And that book you write may end up being about something else.

One more thing. My 7-year old couldn't fall asleep by himself either (he's in college now, and fortunately, does not follow your blog). He slept in a sleeping bag in the hallway outside our open bedroom door for a year. I read about 400 books by experts on childhood sleep disorders, and wallowed in that miasma of parent incompetence where the things they say in books don't seem to apply to your child. Then, one day, he started falling asleep by himself, in his own darkened bedroom. Can't say why or how that happened. Just did. Have faith.

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