Friday, December 31

A Very Short List of Things I'll Try Not to Do in 2022

I know. 'Tis the season for writing resolutions, but, why must we talk about resolutions? Sure it's a new year and we have a fresh new calendar or a fresh new journal for the year. Clean page and all that jazz. But, come on. How many of us keep any resolutions longer than a few hours?

In 2010 I wrote a compendium post for New Year's. It was weird to revisit that post. A few of my resolutions included getting a tattoo (never did that and probably won't), going to 5 Guys (check), and some other things I managed to accomplish in my usual erratic and desultory fashion.

I wrote about a commentary Steve Chapman published in The Chicago Tribune about airlines and travel and how I hoped seat belts wouldn't fall into the category of added fees amenities. That seems less funny and far-fetched now. A lot of things about travel seem less funny now.

I included a book review. Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series was fairly new at that time and kids of all ages seemed more interested in reading. Kids being interested in reading has changed dramatically in the last 11 years. Social media probably has a lot to do with that, but I'm not willing to place all of the blame on social media. I know some people like to say that kids have really short attention spans today because of social media, but I disagree. They can focus for hours on something that interests them.

Kids like to think they're really good at multitasking, which they're not. No one is. But then kids don't really understand what multitasking is so they think that because they can listen to music and do something else, they can multitask. Except when you catch them chair dancing because they're grooving so much to the music and they forget to work on the task they're supposed to be doing. More on attention spans and multitasking in a different blog post.

So, I'm not really a fan of resolutions because I know I will not keep them. It's easier to try to list some of the things I will try not to do in 2022. Herewith are some random thoughts:

  • I will try not to yell at the news. I expect to fail at this one almost immediately unless I decide to devote more time to watching TikTok videos and reading silly stories on reddit, which is a distinct possibility.
  • I will try not to get frustrated with myself when I fall short of my own expectations. For example, I will not berate myself the first time I yell at the news after New Year's Day, so, like on January 2.
That's it. Basically I'm going to try to be more patient with everyone.

If I had to make a couple of proposals for 2022, I might propose to write more. That is something I've wanted to do for a while. Not just blog posts, but short stories and maybe longer stories. I'd like to do more interviews for my podcast. I've been drawing up a list of possible interviewees to talk with me about writing.

I think I need to be less inclined to be a hermit. I know I'm an introvert by nature and sometimes teaching just wrings me out so I want to retreat to a quiet place. But sometimes retreating gets too comfortable and too easy and coming out of that emotional and intellectual hibernation seems too hard. Maybe I should add that to my list: that I will try not to retreat too much when the world is too much with us.

And so I trepidatiously welcome 2022, with all of the mayhaps we have yet to imagine. And may we imagine well and patiently and kindly.

Tuesday, December 21

Stepping back. . . in a minute

I'm about to post the last of my grades. When I press SEND, I will be done officially for this semester. Except for the planning for next semester, which has already begun.

After I finished the grades for one of my 11th classes, I worked on the first newsletter of the year for that group of parents and mapped out a general idea for a plan for the semester. I'm making some changes and creating the newsletter with parents in mind helped me think through some of the details. I'll continue to tinker with those until school starts.

After I post grades for my AP Language course, I'll spend some time mapping out next semester for those students. Spring semester can go by really fast and there are things to which I know we must attend because it is an AP class.

Then I'll look to my college classes. I teach part-time at a high school because I'm an adjunct at a local university and that gig was first. Anyway, I teach freshman writing and you'd think that wouldn't change much and you'd be right. The focus of freshman writing hasn't changed, but the students sure have so I'm constantly revising that course to help meet the needs of students to assist them in being successful in college and maybe even beyond. I can't prep that much for my literature course until I meet the students as the course is geared mostly for education majors and this semester the range of concentrations is quite astonishing. It'll be fine, though. 

So after I press SEND for my last set of grades and map out three classes for spring semester, then I can start revisiting the texts that I'll be using next semester to make sure I've got those reasonably settled and figured out some alternatives because, well, things always change. Oh, and sort out the books I have because they have gotten really jumbled and disorganized this semester.

Then I can catch up on some of the professional reading and writing I've not had time to do with preps and grading for over 100 students this past semester.

Since it's the holidays, I'll reach out to some friends I've not been able to see because we've all been too busy or too tired.

My "to do" list also includes cleaning out the pantry and the refrigerator, though the former is less  important than the latter. Now that I've learned the replacements for the fluorescent lights I have in the basement are going to be harder to find than I thought, I may have to contact an electrician about redoing the light fixtures in the basement.

And then I'll step back for a few minutes, and just relax.

Tuesday, November 2

The Great Pandemical Change

I write from a position of privilege in that I am white. I am also a woman of a certain age which means I’ve had my share of misogynistic bosses and HR personnel who had to look the other way because, at the time, verbal abuse and overtones of sexual harassment were de rigueur. I also grew up in a middle class home with a mother who strained to be more and a father who found solace in alcohol. I have spent plenty of time doing work I’ve not really wanted to do, working more hours than I felt I should for little or no compensation and done so because I believed I had no choice if I was to keep my job, if I was to advance into whatever might be a career.

I’m at the point now that, quite frankly, I don’t really care about many things. I care about doing good work. I care about doing well. I care about being content in what I do. I care about trying to make a difference. But I don’t care to put up with anyone else’s nonsense any longer.

As I read about the Great Resignation, it’s clear the views are incredibly varied. Sure, the people who choose to leave their jobs are putting a strain on those left behind. That’s always been true. What seems to be less true is the ease with which that individual might be replaced. It is also clear the pandemic taught many of us a lot of things, many of which were and are unexpected.

Among those things, many organizations learned that employees don’t have to be at desks or in cubicles in a central location for specific hours. They also learned they don’t have to move employees to a central location and there could be value in having some employees in locations other than wherever the headquarters might be. I suspect even the idea of having a headquarters or “main office” is likely to change.

Education has been writhing and churning under the weight of mandates and expectations from federal, state, and local governments as well as parents. Even before critical race theory became one of the most misunderstood theories on the planet, teachers were already wrestling with trauma-informed instruction and cultural relevance on top of math and literacy mandates and expectations compounded and confounded by parental expectations and misunderstandings about what teachers can actually do in 48 minutes or less when there are over 20 nearly equally needy students in the room.

I have never before heard of so many teachers who are, barely two months into the school year, done. Just done. Done with kids and their attitudes. Done with parents. Done with administrators who are caught between several rocks and hard places. Done with trying to design lesson plans with all kinds of options because there is no way of knowing how many kids will be in the room and how many will have to try to join the class virtually.

The turbulence in education is bound to affect companies of all types and all sizes. That ripple effect is as inevitable as the disturbances on water when a pebble is dropped only there is nothing calm about this water. In fact, the pebble probably serves to amplify the disturbances.

People want to do work that is meaningful and appreciated, they want to be fairly compensated, and they want to work with and for people who aren’t jerks. Apparently that’s a lot to ask for, and it shouldn’t be.

Years ago I had an employee who came to me to complain that I never thanked her. She said she’d noticed that I also expressed gratitude to those who worked extra hours or came through on a project with a demanding schedule and probably demanding customer, but I never thanked her. I remember thinking that it was absurd to thank someone for doing their job, but then I got to thinking about the fact that she was always on time, she was always responsible, she always did her work even if not necessarily exceptionally, and she got along well with the rest of the team and others.

It’s easy to ignore those folks. The ones who quietly do their jobs and do them competently, even well. They’re not the troublesome employees and they’re not the superstars. They are the ones, however, who keep the engines of commerce running. I could stretch that metaphor but I won’t because I’m sure you get it. And so, periodically, I made a point of thanking her for being there and doing her job conscientiously and well.

She taught me to be grateful for all of my team members and to make sure they felt appreciated. There was little I could do about compensation, but I could make sure I wasn’t a jerk.

Based on limited insight and a bunch of reading, I think the Great Resignation is an important shift and that people are tired of unreasonable expectations, a lack of civility, and a lack of appreciation. I think some people will tolerate less compensation if they are valued and if they believe the boss supports them. Whether or not bosses understand this is a very different story.