Saturday, August 14, 2010

Bak 2 Skool

I'm doing my favorite things this morning: reading bits of essays from famous authors, preparing for classes for the semester and sitting cross-legged at the computer with my cat, sipping home-roasted coffee and writing poetry.
School starts on Monday. I'm not quite ready but I'm closer. I feel like I'm getting a handle on it. More or less.

I spent this last week at ECU, attending lots of meetings and prepping for the semester. I've tried three different hair colors. I created syllabi, found my classrooms, interacted with my new colleagues and found the necessary and most convenient coffee pot. I volunteered to bring my own coffee in to share. It's all very exciting and new and fresh. This is completely unlike what I'm like in May.

At the end of spring semesters, I don't think I'll have more to share with students. I'm tapped and cranky and generally want to retreat to a dank office to make circles on student's papers in red ink and write snarky comments that they will never see because they don't come to pick them up. I never want to see pantyhose again and all of my dresses, shoes and slacks are ill-fitting. The dress code seems ridiculous. I seriously consider wearing gi pants and tee shirts with sneakers to class with my hair in a pony. I finally compromise with just the pony tail and a promise to myself to buy more clothes over the summer and hit the gym more often.

Once the last grade has been entered, the last student gone, the final paper I've had to dream up for grad school has been completed, I just let it all hang out for a week. I consider moving to Alaska or Western Europe. I want to dump all of my responsibilities, student loans, mortgages and car issues and just go, escape the heat and the people and find myself on a cool Mediterranean coastline, dining on olives and fresh mozzarella. I sit in a cafe under a huge umbrella to protect my pale skin and watch the passers-by, sipping a tall drink with some pepperminty shit in it. Children play on a nearby beach and adults wear horizontal stripes and generally spend time looking like a Monet painting. I sigh, content and happy, and take out my journal to write some more world-class poetry which negates any need to do actual work. Very romantic and Sadaris/Hemmingway-ish if you add tons more alcohol. I stay in this fantasy for awhile; it comes with some really great sex and orzo. It falls apart eventually, though. I don't speak anything besides some English and broken Spanish. Even the Spanish is suspect since I learned a good number of words in prison. And I'm not certain how to sneak Eleanor onto a trans-Atlantic flight without her meowing her head off for 11 hours.

Eventually, I come back to Oklahoma and more practical matters. I mow the lawn all summer- a lot and a half with an electric push mower that finally dies. We get a gas-powered self-propelled and it whips through the yard in a third of the time. Suddenly, Luke mows the lawn and I am flabbergasted. The tomatoes wilt and some of my fruit trees turn yellow. I fear that the plum won't make it through till Fall. I get my good friend Patricia to pick out some colors and spend a day painting my windowless office with Moroccan Red and Spiced Cashew. One wall looks like someone bled all over it. Perfect for dealing with grumpy students. I will say the color is made with real crushed Moroccans. My students might think that all Moroccans are Muslim terrorists. They may not know what Ramadan is or that it's going on right now. Ramadan, the month of fasting, is hardest in summer when the days are long. Nevertheless, I will observe my annual 2-day fast. But I won't mention it to anyone. Maybe I'll just pass the color off as OU crimson. Easier that way.

Somehow, through 3 summer graduate courses and teaching too, I'm at a place where I'm ready to go back and start again. I look forward to the first day of school and the young and not-so-young minds that roll in to the classroom to enlighten me and help me be a better person. I'm pretty sure that without my students, I would have small borders around my world and life experiences.

My first teaching job was at ECU. I loved the students- it was as if they just fell off of a turnip truck, dusted themselves off and said "Let's Git-R-Done". This is an attitude that I can use, that I appreciate for my own sake. They're not always the best prepared students but they do seem to value education and want to engage in it. So I'll do my best to learn along with them.

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