Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Classes

Methods of Teaching English - Basically, this class takes place in two parts on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The afternoon section is tailored for more advanced students, which includes my fellow post-bac graduate students. This class is going to be one hell of a lot of work, but also very valuable in terms of preparing me for student- and real-world teaching. The most important class I'm taking this semester.

English Literature - Of the three literature survey classes required by the University of Wyoming, I was required to take two of them. I'm still slightly bitter about that, but in reality, I haven't studied Revolutionary Era (C18 & early C19) literature in years and years. And I really do appreciate having a deeper understanding of the stuff before trying to teach it to high schoolers.

Seminar in Field Experience - Although it's listed as a 4000 level class, this is basically a survey class focusing on topics in Special Education. Good stuff, and I'll definitely need it, but I'm not afraid of this one at all.

Teaching for Social Justice - About a week ago I found out that I had a gigantic scheduling snafu in the works, which meant ditching the Political Science class I'd signed up for just for fun (I had to get my 12 hours to keep my fulltime status). That left me scrambling to find a class that was A) interesting and B) hopefully easy. This is a 1000 level Education class, and after an email exchange with the instructor it sounds like a good time. Yes, it will require thought and work, and yes, I already feel like I'm culturally sensitive and an advocate of social justice in the classroom, but hey! it was open and the instructor is a really cool guy.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A Super Quick Update

Okay. It's two and a half hours after that previous post. I just called my boss and gave him a brief overview of last night's incident. After some quick questions, he assured me I did fine. He also wasn't surprised I couldn't find the report form, because apparently that seems to be a trend throughout the department right now.

All's cool. But I'm still very sleepy. And that last thing is still very much on my mind.

Exactly What I Needed After My First Day of Class

Well, folks, I'm writing this at 4:15 in the morning because I can't sleep, and I haven't been asleep for several hours now. I'm on on-call duty tonight, and at 2:30 the desk worker called me. I won't get into the details of what's going on because it's really nothing major (and it's confidential anyway), but the actual incident isn't what's bugging me.

For this kind of situation we're supposed to write up reports. For the past year and a half, the report templates have been in the same place on each and every lobby desk computer. They changed where these reports are found, and I can't find it. So now a few people will be looking for this report in the morning, but won't be able to find it, because yours truly couldn't find the goddamn report template in the first place.

And here's where things get nasty. Anyone who's been around me long enough knows that I hate feeling stupid. Well, okay, no one actually likes feeling stupid, but I really, really, really hate feeling stupid. Right now, I'm trying to figure out if this whole thing is entirely my fault, mostly my fault, or only slightly my fault.

A slight policy violation on behalf of a support person I called is one thing. Not being able to find the report template, one of the most basic RA tasks of all, is another thing entirely. A part of me wants to blame RA training; not only did it dull our senses, but obviously the content didn't stick either – precisely, I would argue, because it dulled our senses. I remember the session during which we talked about the report template, and I remember them giving us a web address for it, but I can't find it in any of the handouts and I can't find it in my notes. Another part of me is also pissed off at a serious lack of organization that I see at all levels of this department, but I won't get into the details on that one.

And yet another voice in my head says, "Paul, you can blame anyone you want but the fact is you were given all of this information in training and failed to remember it or even act on it correctly. This isn't mostly your fault, this is all your goddamn fault."

Now, that last voice is the same one that used to berate me for truly minor mistakes and I've learned to mostly ignore that little fucker. It used to pretty much be the only voice in my head. It hasn't been around for a few years now, but occasionally, especially when something like this happens, it plops down on my sofa, cracks a beer, and makes itself at home for a few hours. Sometimes writing about it helps, sometimes not. I think tonight it has.

Finally, and I didn't fully realize this until just now, there's something else going on in my life that I really can't write about here but has definitely been on my mind lately. No details; I'm afraid talking about it will ruin it.

Okay. I'm going to try to sleep now.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Move-in Weekend

Well, actually, it's been steady but overall not too bad. Well over half of my floor is checked in; I'm taking a quick break in my room and the desk worker promised to call me if I had any arrivals.

As with last year's move-in Friday, I have eaten nothing but sugary food today. Literally. Nothing else but sugar and carbs and caffeine.

And now I feel a little oogie.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Do Not Read This Post if You Are Squeamish, Sensitive, or a Deer Lover

Hitting the deer last night was an odd moment. Technically, we didn't hit it so much as it hit us - it literally jumped into our car's rear quarter panel. Dazed, it proceeded to wander directly into the path of the behemoth pickup behind us. By the time we turned around the other driver was already out of his truck, digging in his toolbox for a knife. The deer, not yet old enough to have lost its spots, gasped on its side in the middle of the road, its leg broken and its guts hanging out. It was not going to live.

This may be Wyoming, but no one had any guns. And let me be clear that there was never any question as to what was going to happen next. The hunters among us spoke about euthanasia with military coolness, not out of pity, but some moral code that I'd never bothered to think about before. The deer was suffering and it was dying. On that stretch of road there are no animal hospitals within 60 miles, no deer ERs where wounded little Bambis are nursed back to life. The proper thing to do – the only thing to do – was to end its suffering.

One RA (the driver of the truck) knocked it on the head to put it out. I stayed in the car as three RAs carried the unconscious deer to the ditch, where one of them bent over and cut its throat.

Violence is not funny. Gore is not particularly funny. But I think it's important to deal with trauma in whatever way you need to, even if your take seems macabre to others. I deal with these things through humor.

"You know," I said a few hundred feet down the road, "The other deer we passed looked at us like 'Shit. Guess we need a new left-fielder now.'"

And So It Begins (Again)

Check-ins start tomorrow. Keep me in your prayers.

Last night a combined group of Crane and Hill staffers drove over to Saratoga to hang out in the hot springs there. It was a great night; we got back at 2 this morning after having reached and breached the limit of adventures a group of RAs can have in a 140 mile trip. Pulled over by the cops? Check. Mooning the other carload of RAs on I-80 at 1:30 in the morning? Check. Hit a deer and have to cut its throat because it was suffering and was going to die? Check.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

God Looks Out for Drunks, Children, and Crane RAs

Well, two of us anyway.

N and I have early check-ins scheduled today, and have been excused from a training session which looked not only agonizing but also completely irrelevant to the Crane RA job.

Small mercies.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

At Least I'm Not Working Saturdays

Okay, things are looking up. The room fiasco was solved by a last-minute cancellation on the women's wing, my desk schedule is limited to two four hour shifts (Sunday morning and Thursday night), and I don't have to get up early tomorrow morning. That last one is actually irrelevant since I'm an early riser, but after the weekend I've had, I'll take what I can get.

Turns out the campers had a really, really, REALLY good time, but given all of today's adventures it was certainly for the best that I stayed back. They claim that they'll be going again and will make it a point to work around my schedule, but honestly? talk is cheap when school's not in session. We'll see what shakes.

I'm off to another RA's room to watch Strange Brew.

Bad, Good, Bad, Good, Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad

Bad: I learned yesterday that I couldn't go camping because I had an early check-in.

Good: Last night some friends stopped by and we drank port and watched Old School.

Bad: Seeing those friends made me really miss last year.

Good: Another early check-in arrived late this morning. Thank God I was here or she would have been really super pissed.

Bad: Due to an administrative snafu she had been assigned to a room on the male wing on my floor.

Bad: My boss apparently had her new room assignment all along, but I didn't know that, so I made an executive decision to put her in a female room on my floor. My (outdated) floorplan showed that this new room was empty.

Bad: The room was actually assigned to someone else.

Bad: I had to tell her that she had to move into another room on another floor, after she had moved all her stuff into this room.

Bad: Although she says she's not, I think she's really super pissed.

Bad: In retrospect I should have at least made the effort to call my boss and ask if he had the new room assignment.

Not a great start to my second year as an RA.

The Week, pt. II

A little picture of what Crane hall looked like in its heyday.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Week

Well, folks, it's been a very busy week and is ending, at this very moment, on a sour note. More on that in a minute.

RA training is going better than it did last year, but that's a bit like saying this year's colonoscopy is better than last year's. Some of the sessions are vaguely interesting and occasionally relevant. Most of them are exercises in mental anguish. I literally walk out of the meeting room feeling dumber and far less inspired to be an RA. All of my door and floor decorations are done, so technically the longest days are behind me, but I'm still a little ball of resentment right now.

Of course my new cohorts are a lot of fun – although nothing will ever compare to last year's Orr staff. My hall is populated exclusively by non-traditional students and most of the RAs match that description as well. We're even allowed to have alcohol in our rooms over here, and we're going to be a good staff despite the copious amounts of alcohol consumed on a nightly basis (by them. I just can't/don't drink like I used to). One of the guys is the brother of an Orr staffer from last year – N and I hung out a little bit last year and we've made quick friends. Last night we smoked cigars and had a small glass of port; during training we sometimes pass the time by writing exceedingly offensive and insulting letters to each other.

The building itself was once a beacon of the university's emergence into modernity. Built in 1960, Crane and Hill halls are separated by a central cafeteria (no longer used for serving students). From above, the two halls look like an "H" with its stems bent slightly outward and away from the crosshatch. My room is on the sixth floor, in the upper right corner between the stem and the crosshatch, looking over the connecting hallway and directly at Hill. The connecting hallways (the H's crosshatch) have multi-colored glass panels, undoubtedly leftovers from the Kennedy administration. The place is run down and antiquated by industrialized nations' standards. It has the ambiance of a Sci-Fi movie set sometime after a nuclear apocalypse.

Today, being our only day off throughout the entire course of the two weeks of training, everyone in Crane had planned to go camping and fishing. In fact, as I write this, everyone in Crane is on WY 130 heading into the Snowy Mountains. I'm stuck here because I have an early check-in coming in from Minnesota who's not due in until 7:00 tonight (each hall has a few early check-ins, Crane especially, since we have quite a few law students here). I know where they're going and I'm heading up there after the check-in, but I'm slightly bitter about it.

That's all that's going on here; I'm still trying to figure out when I'll put up the final post. It will likely be sometime soon, but I promise to give fair warning.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

My New Number

Because I'm all about mnemonic devices and I'm also all about not having a webcrawler find my number online, I present to you my new number in Crane:

307.POOR1AH

or, if you prefer . . .

307.POOP1AH

Vacation

I'm back in Laramie after a week in Illinois, where it was hotter and more humid than a boiler room in hell. Nothing too exciting went down on this trip; mostly I sat around and read. That first Sunday my mom and I drove up to Chicago to see my sister and her family, but other than that. . . nothing too major.

Although come to think of it I did walk to the UI campus and back (my mom lives about a mile from campustown in Champaign). Two things stick out in my mind about that walk. First, the temperature was over 100 degrees. Now, I've seen 100 degrees before in various places like Wyoming, Phoenix, Kentucky, and Illinois, and let me tell you something: 100 degrees in Illinois is hotter than any other 100 degrees you'll ever see.

The other thing is that visiting the UI campus is always like stepping into a parallel universe. While the classroom buildings and quad haven't changed at all, the surrounding businesses in campustown seem like shallow iterations of more profound times. That doorway can't be where my friend puked after a night in Murphy's. This corner can't be where I almost got my ass kicked because my girlfriend lipped off to a phalanx of frat boys.

I think the first few years after graduation were the worst. UI is huge, and only a year later I didn't recognize anyone during a stroll through campus. It was like strangers had broken into my friends' apartments and taken all their clothes.

And so other than the walk, Champaign was uneventful. On Tuesday night my friend Liz came over (I met her well after I graduated) and we polished off a bottle of wine and just hung out on my mom's porch.

On Wednesday my stepdad carted me down to Taylorville, where my stepmom met us and took me down to Edwardsville. I lived in E'ville as recently as a year and a half ago so I still have friends there. Three of them came over on Thursday night for a BBQ; Friday was spent hanging out with my nephew on the lake, and I flew back yesterday.

A quick note here about the weather. Remember how I said Champaign was hot? It was hotter in Edwardsville. When my stepbrother dropped me off at the St. Louis airport, stepping out of his car was like stepping into a wall of superheated jello.

In Denver it was 55 degrees and drizzling: we got soaked as we walked to the plane. Surprisingly, the flight into Laramie wasn't nearly as sporty as it usually is. Laramie, of course, was chilly. I had to wear my Carhartt coat just to walk to a few blocks for dinner.

Today I'll be organizing my room. We have our first official staff meeting tonight, and then two weeks of training, and then school begins.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The End is Nigh, the Sequel

Folks, it's been a busy week.

I'd been in my second class of the summer for the previous three weeks; it's my first graduate level class and probably the single most useful, informative, and inspiring class I've taken at UW. This week is the last week of class, and we've been consistently busy turning in various assignments, including lesson plans, an electronic portfolio, and obviously having tons to read. I also started a second class this week, a one-credit-hour graduate level seminar about assessment. Both taught by guys who are geniuses in separate but equal ways.

Good times, and a hell of a lot of work. I've finished all of my assignments; both classes end tomorrow and then I'm off to Illinois for a week.

In the meantime I have to move sometime tomorrow afternoon, even though I have at least two different parties/barbeques to attend. Technically I'm not even allowed to move into my new room until tomorrow, but as I've said before - the difference between "technically" and "reality" is how likely it is that I'll get caught. And the type of people who would care about the timing of my move are also the type of people who sit behind computers until 4:59 every day.

So they can suck it; I'm moving my stuff tonight because it is technically Friday (in New York, but they never specified time zones). I've already taken two loads over and the rest I'll finish tomorrow.

On a related note, after my second load I walked across the street to the bar for a drink - not because I "needed it" (I've never "needed" a drink in my life), but because I had a busy week, I got some sad news tonight, and mostly I just wanted to take my mind off of everything. So I was sitting there sipping my Maker's Mark neat, and I couldn't help but to overhear a conversation from a few tables away.

I recognized the guys when I walked in. We have several art teachers staying in our hall until tomorrow; they're here for some conference. They checked in a few days ago when I was working the desk. They seemed nice enough at the time.

Maybe it was the booze, maybe they've had a rough week, or maybe it was the booze plus a very low self-esteem. Whatever the reason, they were having the kind of conversation that people have when they're trying to sound smart in a public place. It was like they wanted other people to acknowledge how smart they were, but other people (like me) were actually mocking them. Openly. It was some of the dumbest, most irresponsible crystal-grippin' hippie bullshit I've ever heard come out of anyone's mouth - and these assholes are teachers.

Alrighty. I'm outta here. One more day of class, a few hours of moving, and then I'm on vacation. I need it, in case you couldn't tell.