Archive for August 2011
Last week alone, 2,314 people asked me if I’m ready to go back to school. Yes, I am. But it’s complicated.
First, know that I have to be back at school in two days. By then, I will have had 80 straight days off. That obscene amount of vacation time is one of the perks of the job. In fact, time off is one of the biggest perks of teaching. As most everybody knows, we don’t work on major national holidays, we don’t work on weekends, we have 2 weeks off over Christmas, and another week off in the spring. Teachers at year-around schools schools also have a lot of time off, but it’s not necessarily so heavily situated during the summer.
Second, know that some of those 80 days are automatically lost. The first week of summer vacation is typically sacrificed to things you were too busy to worry about at the end of the school year: cleaning the bathroom, changing the oil, taking the cat to the vet, and sanding down whatever other jagged edges are poking out of the wreckage of your life that results from end-of-the-year chaos and calamity. And let’s not forget that you’re recovering from all-out exhaustion born from dealing with students who gave up in April (or earlier), administering and grading final exams, clearing your classroom and / or office, and dealing with upset students and angry parents of upset students who for whatever reason aren’t going to graduate.
Other days at the end of the summer are given to preparing for the coming year, because you learned early in your career that a few days back at school before you absolutely have to be there can make a huge difference. If well-spent, they help prepare you once students swarm the building. You’ll hit the ground running, and that will create a solid start to the year.
Even when you take those “lost” days into consideration, we still have an obscene amount of time off at the best time of the year. That’s great, but it’s not all that so many people think it is.
You’re given a free pass to do nothing, pretty much for as long as you want to do nothing (or until late August). There are days when all of us do just that–nothing. Not a damn thing. We rediscover the pleasures of sitting on the back porch and reading a book for two hours. We stay up until 3AM watching movies we missed out on during the school year. We cram our weekends from Friday morning until Sunday night with an ungodly amount of stuff we wouldn’t dare schedule during the school year because we have papers to grade, we need to be up at 5:30 Monday morning, we have lessons to plan, or we’re just too tired.
But therein lies the problem: We don’t have to do anything, and that’s a bit like enriched uranium. It’s mighty powerful, but you want to be very careful how you handle it.
The thing is that regardless of who we are or what we do, our minds crave structure and discipline. Our lives thrive with the right amounts of it, no different than a regularly-watered plant or a dog that is fed, pet, and played with regularly. It’s just as important to sometimes break from that structure and discipline, but you don’t want to make the breaks in the routines the norm. You lose your focus, your goals diminish in importance, and pretty soon you’ll be no better than the Lotus Eaters from The Odyssey, lazing about interminably with no motivation or urgency to do anything. When you have a finite amount of time to write or exercise or rebuild the toilet in your spare bathroom instead of doing those things whenever the hell you feel like it, you suddenly find time to do a lot more stuff. Your time becomes a lot more precious, and you find a balance in your life that you maintain for as long as you can. As a teacher, you hold fast to that balance most of the year, but most likely lose your grip around Thanksgiving and Christmas, and at the end of March and May. Each time, you’ve got some time to regroup before the cycle starts again.
I’m at the end of my cycle of doingnothingness. I need structure. I need order. I need a reason to go to bed early. Plus, my summer pay is dwindling, so I need a paycheck. I’m ready to go back to school.
Despite what some commenters on The Seeker might be thinking, the Brewers are kicking some serious ass. Since the All-Star break, they’ve opened up a 5-game lead in the Central, pulled 19 games above .500, compiled the 2nd-best overall record in the league, gone 10-6 on the road, and 21-8 overall. Perhaps most remarkable of all is that they’ve done most of this without world-class leadoff man Rickie Weeks, who suffered a significant ankle injury and will be out another 3-4 weeks. The last month alone they’ve addressed what I saw to be the major concerns with the club and their potential to whoop some ass come September and October–they’ve improved their road mentality and picked up Francisco Rodriguez to shore up their late innings before The Ax drops on the opponent. I smile when I think about what is going to happen when Weeks comes back and is at full strength.
Still, there is cause for concern. There are 41 games yet to play, 19 of which will be on the road. St. Louis will have a lot to say about what unfolds over the next 6 weeks, and they’ll get a chance to speak their piece 6 more times by the middle of September. I think there will be blood in the upcoming series in Milwaukee, and I have a funny feeling that Yadier Molina will be at the center of it. There is also a four-game homestand against Philadelphia in the middle of September that will likely be the most accurate measuring stick to gauge how good The Crew really is. I’m pretty confident at this point, though, that I’ll be adding to this serial in October. The team is having too much fun, and they’re doing a great job at finding ways to win games that they should probably lose. Last weekend is an excellent example. They made 1 run stand up Saturday night behind a pitcher making a spot start out of the bullpen; Sunday they found a way to manufacture runs in the 8th and 10th innings to win a game they most certainly should have lost. And what do they say across all sports about great teams? They find ways to win games that they should have lost.
It’s a banner day here at The Seeker. The blog has survived for three years–and I’ve only been threatened with one lawsuit!
As passed down through blog lore, it was three years ago today that I was cooling my heels at my friend’s house in Nashville while he went to work. To pass the time, I headed down to his basement / garage and used his computer to start The Seeker. I had been meaning to do it for some time, and with little else to do that morning, I finally found the motivation. Those of you who have been around since the start might remember that this whole rambling wreck debuted on BlogSpot; I’ve been using WordPress for the last year and a half.
Some quick stats:
- 22 people subscribe to The Seeker
- there have been over 3,500 views of The Seeker since it debuted on WordPress (2,400 views since last year at this time!)
- this is the 201st post on The Seeker (that works out to a new post every 5-6 days)
- 100 comments have been posted by readers of The Seeker
- the busiest day since the inception of The Seeker was August 17, 2010, when there were 56 views
The blog works best when I find something to serialize. Most recently, that has meant detailing my time at The Skids. Those experiences intersected nicely with the identity of the blog, which I have pretty much always intended to be a metacognitive journal about writing. I throw in a bunch of other stuff, of course, which many times involves baseball. I thought about starting a blog solely about baseball, but having the pressure to maintain a second blog for that purpose might skew the writing I do about it, and if that means I’m not having fun with it (or it’s not meaningful to me), then I won’t feel like writing about it. Aside from the serials and metacognitive writing stuff and the baseball stuff, this still acts as a catch-all for things I want to write but would otherwise let drift out of my mind. Sometimes I write about movies, sometimes about stuff happening in life or the news, and sometimes miscellaneous stuff that comes from whereever. Last spring I took inspiration from The Onion and wrote a few short humorous pieces. That was a diffficult decision–it’s a real challenge to get the intended effect, and I had to wrangle with the thought of “why bother?” if somebody else is already doing it to much greater acclaim. I decided nonetheless to let fly with some things that I thought would be amusing (and at least one of those kicked-started me out of a rut I was in).
I found myself blogging a little bit about teaching this year, though that is still a seldom-visited topic herein. Even the blogging I did wasn’t so much about my teaching as it was about teaching or education in general. I can’t see that changing too much for the same reason I cited on this day last year: At the end of the school day, I’m looking to occupy my mind with something other than what I did all day long.
So what’s in store this year? I don’t know much for certain, other than I have 2-3 Onion-esque pieces lined up, a continuation of this season’s serial about following the Milwaukee Brewers (which I hope runs into late October), and a 3-parter this fall about The Thing, a prequel to one of the greatest horror films ever, itself based on a damn fine science fiction novella.
As I’ve said many times in the last few years, many of you have no idea how much you inspire my writing. I appreciate your audience. Thanks for making this a happy birthday.