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. ;-)

January 21st, 2015 | Tags: ,

Here we go again. That creeping feeling, building into a low panic, has bubbled up to the surface. It has been a pleasant few weeks without it, but it’s back with a vengeance. Find a car, get the semester started right, keep living in the present moment, oh and also try to unmuck the remains of the MAT. And drive 2 hours every day.

Hey, I’m getting some great audiobook time in. Hooray, Google Books + [] + “Read aloud” + Car audio Bluetooth. Also, did you know that there are also [audio books] on Gutenberg? I didn’t until today.

And did you see that sickle moon at dusk? Just a sliver, with Venus hanging out just to the left. Diana was giving her some bowmanship lessons, I think.

January 19th, 2015 | Tags: , ,

Speaking Spanish has been one of my minor little tricks that isn’t much to sneeze at. I took a couple years in high school, and let it go at that. But it helped enormously when I went to Latin & Greek much later, and with the massive demographic shifts, even learning a little bit more has helped my teaching. (The Spanish teachers in my department are also awesome and bear with me as I try to improve on the fly.) So, after feeling slightly ashamed of needing to ask one of my department members to help me with a parent phone call, I decided to start taking matters into my own hands. I signed up for [Duolingo]. After the placement test, it busted me back to very elementary Spanish, past initial stuff but still way early in elementary verbs, because I lack so much vocabulary. I have been testing out, but not as quickly as I had imagined myself. It’s humbling but also nice to get reinforcement with some basic gaps in my vocabulary.

It’s also been nice to observe how it rewards you for completing tasks. Not just the actual prizes, but the process rewards–clicks and dings for success, sad trombones for failure. The bells and whistles are rather alluring to win. Also, you earn coins (“lingots”) that allow you to unlock not just treats, but more things to learn, like how to flirt in Spanish. It’s an interesting concept–hey, kid, do you want to learn something cool? So many things to teach kids in Latin. That’s for another entry, though, I think.

But it does tie in nicely with my other gamified Web site, [HabitRPG]. I have been progressing well in that, taking my lumps as I merit them equally with the rewards of completing more habits. I’ve been drinking much more water, I haven’t bitten my nails in a solid 2 weeks, and managing this wreck business on top of preparing for the beginning of the semester has been far more navigable than I frankly thought possible. P(l)anic attacks are–well, they’re not gone, but I’m able to fall back on a much more structured way of approaching planning, even as my goals feel like they’re dizzying in their complexity and scope. And the motivation is a double-edged sword, because I want to avoid taking damage and also gain the benefits of experience and gold. And now I have a party member to think of! (My undone dailies damage him too!! I won’t let you down, rf!)

All in all, things seem to be looking up after passing through the mirror of the winter break. Just taking time to see family at my own pace, and allowing myself to actually relax, has proven to be absolutely the thing I needed to refocus and look at the world in a growth-mindset orientation. Practice, practice, practice is what it takes, even amidst abject failure. Keep trying. I have written “I’m not giving up” so many times, both here and elsewhere, but it’s not just about one leg in front of the other. It’s about being present for each footstep. And we must give ourselves space to breathe in order to do so.

Keep practicing, folks!