July 1st, 2015 | Tags:

Today marks a new practice: no imgur for 3 weeks. It’s a fantastic place for anthropological investigation and ruminating around the landscape of ideas and images with other nerds, but I want to shift my mental habits to more immediate, less abstract domains. I have very practical goals now, and I need to stop just wrestling with ideas themselves. This state of mind was why I went for, and acquired, my degree in philosophy–it’s what I do, regardless of anything else. But as amazing a tool for rational inquiry and exploration of the boundaries of human expression in 140 characters as imgur is, it’s got to make room.

I’m not quitting forever, just 21 days. So, here’s to day 1.

(I have abandoned HabitRPG. I don’t know if I’ll come back to it yet. But I got by without it before, and I’m going to do it again.)

June 30th, 2015 | Tags: , ,

I wanted to start this off as a letter. “Greetings,” I was all set to begin. Time was people read this, but then I let it languish, as I do now and again. So I guess I don’t really have an audience to greet. But I’m picking it up again, so you lucky readers buckle in. :) So much change has gone on in my life these last six months. Some of it I willed to being, but some of it I allowed to happen through inertia (or lack thereof).

As of June 19th, I am a married man. It’s the internet, so if you know me, you know my wife. ¬†She’s amazing, beautiful, kind, generous, thoughtful, incredibly intelligent, compassionate, whole-hearted, nerdy… I have too many adjectives jammed at the space where the words come out to really do her justice. As we courted over the last summer and into the winter, I awakened to the very real changes that I had been wanting to make in my life, changes that she not only supported but encouraged. And I found myself not only supporting her goals and motivations, but supporting just the beauty of her existence, and all those underlying motivations and goals yet to emerge in her consciousness. As I told my parents practically the moment we began dating: she’s the one. And as we dance this dance through life, I am awed by the profundity of joy that is this life with her.

I have also completed my teaching in NC. I finished up the third year here, and I have learned a great deal about education; as the new teacher steps into my place, I am confident I have brought an academic rigor to the Latin program at Middle Creek that had been lacking before I arrived. We are looking elsewhere for jobs, as this state is clearly not interested in retaining its teachers.

And in the glorious narrative tradition of the three-topic discussion, I am about to become a father. We are expecting our son to arrive into the world around September 21st, and he’s got all ten fingers and toes, so I’m pleased as punch :)

As one chapter of my life closes and another opens, I am thrilled to renew my commitment to writing. I feel like my creativity had been drained from me these last few years, and it is time to touch base with the eternally-flowing font inside me. Maroon’s stories call out to be told, and life doesn’t stop for the living.

March 31st, 2015 | Tags: , ,

It has been a wild month. Much positive change, but also some waning in my habits. And I’m still putting off the monster.

I love climbing mountains, at least. And falling down them.

I’ve been so distracted; so many things are floating around me that are Stuff I Must Do Or Else. It’s to the point where Or Else has become a meaningless concept to me. (Of course, that doesn’t remove it of its teeth; I have just stopped caring.) But, at least, I have been showing up every single day, fighting the big fires, and then tending to the little ones if there’s time. The biggest thing I am seeing is the need to stop numbing out with facebook and imgur. The discourse is a pretty intense reward, but it sucks me in and becomes more habitual, and then it just is the thing I do, instead of being present in the real world. And the Or Else marches closer.

So many things I want to write about, but my time grows short. So, another post.

March 8th, 2015 | Tags: , , ,

My tumble continued unabated as February drew to a close. But I’m getting back on top in terms of staying productive.

My costume is awesome.

Still procrastinating, but I am also doing more. The no-armor rule has fueled a great deal of that; I must be productive or die more. I slipped up once, but I’m finally back to a point where I can heal myself again with magic. It doesn’t do much (15 mana for 2.2 HP), but it cuts down on healing potions a skosh. And the more things I do on my to-do list, the more magic I get back.

There are some new dimensions that are being added to my life–stay tuned for some fairly exciting news.

March 8th, 2015 | Tags: , ,

One of the most difficult-seeming tasks for a teacher is to inspire your students to study the material you’re teaching outside of class. The results of my first unit’s test–delayed because of 2 weeks worth of snow days–reinforces that, because the results are so frustratingly low. I’m not a teacher inclined to curve tests numerically, as we have the option of a retake and also a remediation activity that adds a small percentage to the grade. But it tells me a number of things, both about my test, my expectations for the students, and their level of preparation for the material. But I can only place a part of it on the students. So, back to the drawing board I go, to think of ways to reinforce their existing knowledge and help build up the concepts they’re clearly struggling with. This next unit will give me a little time, as we’re shifting from the passive voice (a big step) to looking at how adjectives form in comparative and superlative degrees (more of a lateral move). The first thing we will be learning is the perfect passive participle, which will be at least somewhat familiar territory for them, and it will allow me to re-address relative clauses and passive voice.

I am trying an experiment, too, with homework. It didn’t go as well as I had hoped, partly because of the snow days hitting right when it was ramping up into gear. It’s a homework sheet, that allows students to choose their paths rather than have me micro-manage it for them, incorporating routine practice and independent cultural exploration. One of its primary objectives is to foster a sense of self-driven inquiry. But I am groaning under the burden of it–my initial formulation was too confusing, and I didn’t deploy it in stages, so I have 3 blocks of material to grade, half of which is either incomplete or lacking in understanding how the assignment is structured. But it is not a complete bust! I have something I can now improve, and the students are still practicing. However: they did not over the snow days, by their own report, despite my attempts to communicate with them over Blackboard their assignments. That’s the most frustrating part. I have reiterated throughout the first six weeks that studying every night was critical, but that expectation was simply ignored when push came to shove.

Lesson learned: be more proactive. I did, indeed, drop the ball to some extent. This semester is eating me alive because of the various priorities I have that are completely not school-related. (More on that soon…) Now, I must dig out of my hole and get on top of the dirt pile again. I had such a great start to the spring semester, but it got away from me. Time to get it back.

February 24th, 2015 | Tags: , , ,

So I headed out to work today, thinking we’d probably be getting early release (most forecasts called for afternoon snow). About two-thirds of the way through my 45-minute commute, i.e., 6am–yes, I leave typically around 5:30am–it began snowing. I checked the county Web site when I got to the parking lot, and my suspicions were correct: lo, we were set for delayed opening. A few other early-arriving teachers were dumbfounded as I shared the news with them; they too had been snared by the vagaries of travel time and school hours. I caught up with a few beloved colleagues also making their way in, and as the big, fat flakes drifted noiselessly and unrelentingly down to the whitening tarmac, which had done its best to retain heat but eventually gave up under last night’s brutal chill and the morning’s crystalline onslaught, it was patently obvious that the delay was only to buy the county some time before the inevitable decision.

Read more…

February 17th, 2015 | Tags: , , , ,

But it’s not over yet, and I feel like I can get it back. To start, here’s my HabitRPG for February so far:

A Healer, supposedly

So, I made it to level 10 and became a Healer by the end of January. I was rocking out, learning how to use “poison” Dailies to good effect. But when the school semester began in earnest, I started to lose my grip on the really important tasks. Plus side to it, I’m actually getting consequences, rather than just feeling guilty; half my gear has been destroyed and I’ve lost so much coin. I’m at the point of losing something really valuable to me, my Gumdrop Sword. (Oh noes!) I can’t just re-buy it, and it’s just cool-looking. So I just need to suck it up, McNugget, and do the stupid poison dailies that have been plaguing me.

One useful side-effect about this is that it’s also a calibration of my self-honesty. In January I was getting a handle on how to use it, and I had only been plugging in things that were vaguely important (I mean, sure, ideals, but not a lot of practical substance). And it was good practice. But now I’ve pared down, relegating the idealistic stuff to Habits and using the Dailies for the truly consequential items. It is showing me how badly I do procrastinate on things that seem patently easy to do, and the more important it is, the more likely it seems I’ll quail at the task. Shame rears its ugly head and nibbles at my soul.

So, going forward, I’m going to stop wearing armor. I’ll buy stuff to wear for costumes, but boosting my CON is just protecting me from the harsh reality of bad habits. (I will, however, accept other stat boosts, because they increase my rewards for doing good things. It is, if you will, a double-edged sword.)

I introduced this to one of my ADD kids, and he really took to it. To his credit, he immediately saw the importance of honesty that this system requires, and that it actually nourishes. I feel like I’m actually doing some good in the world these days.

Back to the grind!

February 12th, 2015 | Tags: ,

Fear and shame have a feeling of insidious tendrils, twisting and winding their way through the cracks in your wall of identity, forcing it asunder and exposing the inner, small, worthless you to the world. It is these times that I cling to the small beauties of life: rays of light flooding from holes in cloud-darkened sky, a side comment from a well-meaning friend that reminds me of my worth, a pleasant greeting from a feline who knows nothing but affection and trust. As the semester lurches onward, my duties spiral into near untenable heights, but the joy of seeing students make those connections–I see it every single day–slakes my thirst and invigorates me even when I am sitting in the driveway after an hour’s commute, ears ringing, head stuffed with cotton. Love propels me forward, knowing that there is another day and another chance to do better. To pick up in the here and now the threads of obligations laid aside in the triage of yesterday’s panic.

February 4th, 2015 | Tags: , ,

I began using a language study tool, [Duolingo], a few weeks ago, after the burning shame of being unable to call my Spanish-speaking students’ parents directly got to be too much to bear. So far, I’m learning a lot about elefantes y platos, but also about how yo como mientras leo. It’s nice for someone with a command of a highly-inflected language, but the pace can be maddeningly slow. It does help with vocabulary retention, though. I can bull through a lot of it with a broad knowledge of English–granjero is cognate with granger ( = farmer), for instance.

Magistrula is working out very well, also; I am in the process of developing a homework sheet around it. Rather than come up with specific assignments every single night, I can shift some of the burden to the students (with an option to assign something specific once in a while), allowing them to direct their own studies to supplement what we learn in class. Ted Gellar-Goad’s [excellent article on automaticity] was a shot in the arm for me, reminding me of the broader concepts and terminology to aid my own thinking about my teaching. Ms. Andresian has been wildly responsive to my feedback and requests, and already it’s become an integral part of my classroom, saving time spent before on things the students can now take ownership of, while in the class allowing us to move still faster as well. I use it for drills and warmups, and I also use it to seed our games. It works as an excellent random vocab generator, which allows students to engage in the forms without the contempt of familiarity obscuring their vision of the different parts of the words.

Fluency is as much a matter of knowing what not to say, and I have been learning how to say less. I am faced with a poverty of time, and prioritizing means accepting that not everyone needs to be communicated with by words–sometimes action or inaction speaks volumes, and words can actually dilute the message rather than supplement it. But I’m doing more listening, less talking, and more action, and that is making so much of a positive difference in my life. I have begun writing letters, and allowing time and space to ferment the words into something richer and more valuable than a phone call or email can provide. If you’re inclined, send me your address, and I’ll send you a letter. I’ll try to write something worth reading.

January 24th, 2015 | Tags: , ,

The gasp, the rush, the plunge…the cavitating shock of a new medium, carrying you, enveloping you, holding you close. This year has been a wild ride, one of ups and serious downs, but in the span of it I have become a different sort of person, with a deeper understanding of my fundamental goals and values than I ever had before. And I have been taking action to realize them, not holding up my life or acting for others at the expense of myself, much more of late. Having meds on board helped–it kept me alive this fall, if I may be frank–and since the winter break my vision is clear and growing clearer. This is life, lived with intent. Maddening, complex, and exhilarating in the fullest. This is calefaction.

[HabitRPG] has been a bit of a boon in this respect. I am having a hard time now that the semester is in full swing, but having gotten it up and running has made for more proactive task management than I had ever employed before. Here’s me, with my white lion pet and my gumdrop sword of task-slaying:

Just a bard of passion and mirth

I need to invest in some better armor. These task gremlins are going to chew me up if I’m not careful. ;-)