I have two days left in my six-week “research study.” (If you haven’t been following along, this is a fancy way of saying I have two more days with the kids before they go to daycare and I become a full-time college instructor.) At the beginning of the week, I felt all this pressure to do all the fun things I’ve wanted to do with the kids all summer, but never got around to. We have had a fun-filled week — playground, lunch with nana & papa, open house at school, zoo, splash pad on for tomorrow — but now I’m just tired. I’m completely worn out and emptied of all the energy I need to prepare for my classes. It’s time for them to go to daycare.
I had a bad day yesterday. I seem to have had several of them recently. Something about the frustrating constancy of the kids needing and begging and arguing, combined with a sometimes extended lack of adult interaction. It just makes me very grumpy. A dozen petty nuisances combined to slowly and persistently eat away at my level of patience. In retrospect, it wasn’t that bad, but it sure was hard to convince myself of that yesterday. There’s only so many times that I can tell myself to stop and count to ten before I start to lose the ability.
During naptime, I read short essays to consider for my classes. One was a commencement address by Daniel Foster Wallace. It was really good, and I really needed it that day and that hour. Here are some highlights (complete address here):
Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. . . .
Petty frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing is gonna come in. Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me the time to think, and if I don’t make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I’m gonna be pissed and miserable every time I have to shop. Because my natural default setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me. About my hungriness and my fatigue and my desire to just get home, and it’s going to seem for the world like everybody else is just in my way. . . .
In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth.
He goes on to explain why several other objects of worship — beauty, intelligence, power — will all fail you as well. Good stuff. So helpful to remember. This is why I love this job; I get to spend my days thinking and reading. It’s all very inspiring until I realize that this bright man committed suicide three years after he spoke these words. Damn. If even this much perspective doesn’t center you, what will?
I’m in an interesting place as a teacher. I’m still somewhat new at this teaching business, but I find myself at two very different places on the teaching spectrum simultaneously. I am trying to learn how to teach high school students to become college students. At the same time, I am trying to learn how to teach my young toddlers how to become elementary school students. I have slowly (because there are still two years before L & C start kindergarten) been reading books by Susan Wise Bauer about homeschooling. I don’t plan to homeschool, but I want to learn her all-encompassing system of turning first graders into college ready students so that I can superintend and supplement the things my children learn. Today, I’ve been reading her thoughts on how to create writers, starting at grade 1. It gives me ideas about what to do with L & C, but it also makes me wonder how I can poke and prod the Freshman I will encounter in a couple of weeks to uncover gaps and holes in their education up-to-now that may need to be filled.
I have two plans so far for the first day of class. First, we will read a segment from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland about saying what you mean. Second, I will ask them to define the word rhetoric. I’ve defined it myself on the first day of class in the past, but instead of doing that, I want to see what they find and how they go about figuring it out. It should be an interesting year.