29.6.05

Notable Quotes

WELCOME HOME

Your task may look impossible. Ignorance and inertia, partially camouflaged as time-honored morality, seem to surround you. Pessimism is enshrined as a hallmark of worldliness. Compulsive skepticism masquerades as perceptiveness. Mean-spirited irony is chic. Stories about treachery and degradation provoke a visceral thrill in millions of people who think of themselves as reasonable and smart. Beautiful truths are suspect and ugly truths are readily believed.

To grapple against these odds, you have to be both a wrathful insurrectionary and an exuberant lover of life. You've got to cultivate cheerful buoyancy even as you resist the temptation to swallow thousands of delusions that have been carefully crafted and seductively packaged by very self-important people who act as if they know what they're doing. You have to learn how to stay in a good mood as you overthrow the sour, puckered hallucination that is mistakenly referred to as reality.

What can we do to help each other in this work?

20.6.05

Best Friends Forever

I'm still recovering from my reunion. Those that know me know that I'm in bed by 8:30 and up at 5: for two days I was up until 1 or later, and rising around 7:30! Was I upset? Not at all. The people I was with are the smartest, sexiest, warmest, coolest people I can imagine spending time with and five years are just too long to be without their company.

I can't imagine my life without these friends, and I can't thank the gods enough for putting them in my life. Cherish your friends: I do.

13.6.05

Notable Quotes

I'm not sure I want someone proctoring my conflicts
English Teacher to me, discussing a schedule
change for final exam proctoring

10.6.05

They like me... they really like me!

At our MS closing ceremonies today, I was handed a bound copy of the 8th grade history papers.

On the title page verso was (is) the following:
The Eighth Grade would like to thank [my name], Librarian of [school] from 1996 to 2005. Ms. [name]'s guidance and assistance in finding material, assessing sources and writing research papers has been invaluable


Better than any parting gift I could have imagined.

9.6.05

Phrases I'd be happy to never hear again

  • "To be honest" and variants (Sherri has a great riff on this)
  • "In my humble opinion" (yeah, we get it - you're not so humble)
  • "We haven't always agreed, but I really respect you" (uh huh)
  • "I really want to know what you think" (why? so you can ignore it?)
  • "There are no small parts, only small actors"

What are your pet verbal peeves?

Personal Growth (and responsibility)

Earlier this week, one of my students brought me a book. This is a student that introduced me to a fantasy series earlier this year (much to the detriment of my wallet), and one that I introduced to Terry Prachett's Discworld (much to the detriment of his mother's wallet). So when he brought me this book, I was more than willing to read it. He handed it over with the words, "It really helped change my life." (Always amusing to hear that from a 9th grader!)

The Alchemist is vaguely in the magic realism/personal quest genre. I didn't find it life-changing, but I could see where someone younger might. It wasn't a bad read, just somewhat derivative. Oh well.

I'm not upset or concerned that the student thought I needed to have my life changed, either. I'm flattered when students want to share things that mean a lot to them, as long as they don't expect me to return the "favor" or to unreservedly accept these things into my life. This particular student didn't, and when we spoke about the book yesterday he was just happy I'd enjoyed the read.

However, I have colleagues that don't draw the distinction between personal and public revelation. I blog somewhat anonymously because I don't want to appear to speak for my school: the opinions here are in no way officially sanctioned. A blog that appears to be linked to the school would limit some of what I write, because of my responsibility to the school's name and ethos.

Similarly, when I speak with students, I'm constantly aware of the divide between an "official" opinion and a "personal" one. Here's an example. One of my students asked about the Bible, did we have any at the school? I said yes, and showed him where on the shelves they were (along with Korans, the Tao Te Ching, Dianetics, etc.). I also pointed out the different versions, how the annotated King James differs from The Good News and how both differ from the New Oxford Annotated. We then drifted into a discussion about the truth of the Bible. I said something to the effect that there are people that believe that the words are direct from God, while others believe they were divinely inspired but written by fallible men, still others believe that they're myths that illustrate truths about life, and so on. The challenge, I said, was to decide for yourself which you believe. Another student, listening, complimented me on presenting different views without giving away what I personally believe.

And that's critical: what I believe about religion, abortion, Terri Schiavo, the Curse of the Bambino are all personal beliefs and should not be shared with students. If and when I feel the need to shout those beliefs from the rooftops (as it were), I have this blog.

Other colleagues share information about their artificial insemination, the personal events going on in their lives, that Jesus is their best friend, that their experience with Landmark Forum allowed them to self-actualize and empowered them, among other topics. That's just wrong. Our job is to allow students to grow and widen their horizons, but when we talk about our personal beliefs, we cross that line into "official speak". Several students have told me how uncomfortable they feel in classes where Jesus or "right living" becomes a topic because they worry that their grade will suffer if they don't follow the teacher's lead.

The teacher that was changed by the Landmark Forum (EST for the 90s and 00s, for those of you old enough to remember EST) has even convinced two rather impressionable girls to spend three days in June at then next Forum session. I learned about this when they asked me to come with them (luckily, I have other commitments!). My immediate thought was "How very Jean Brodie", which was quickly followed by "nooooooooo". My feelings about the Forum aside, this is just wrong.

Schools are places for personal growth, and not only for the students entrusted to our care. But abusing our positions by giving them opinion dressed up as fact is just wrong. Much as blogging as a representative of the school while sharing personal feelings/experiences is wrong.

Sorry for the length of this rant, but it's one of the things I will not miss about this school and hope I don't find at the next.

5.6.05

At the ballet

My previous post covered the actual dancing, but as any audience member knows, it's the people in front of the stage that are as important as those on or behind. Like any good twitcher, one knows to look for certain species that appear in the audience on any given day. Here's a list of what I saw.

1. The Old Bald Guy with Ponytail. Kids, don't try this one at home; adults, do NOT leave home with it. This is a reminder that some bad hairstyles just never die.

2. Proud Parent/Grandparent. At last, the years of watching their darling suffer for their craft will be rewarded. If the child hasn't received a contract from a Good Ballet Company by now, clearly people just don't understand how good The Artiste is. Conversely, this is a way to wind up Their Darling's ballet career, as The Dancer morphs into The College Student (with luck, on their way to a good, paying career).

3. Bemused Other Family Member. They just don't get it: how can you dance to something that lacks a good beat? And just look at what it does to your feet! Isn't it just a little gay to wear tights like that?

4. Resentful Other Family Member: All those years of sacrificing so that The Dancer gets training and this is what they end up with?

5. Balletophile: How does this year's Workshop compare to last year's? What about a revival of a well-known work? (I actually heard one person say, "Well, when [well-known dancer] danced this it was so much better"... Uh, sir, this was a student recital not a professional performance - close as they may seem to the untrained eye).

6. Balletophobe: Only here because they have to be. This year we had a refugee from Duran Duran/A Flock of Seagulls two rows away, sighing loudly during the breaks (could have been a Resentful Other Family Member but more likely a Roped in Supportive Friend).

There were, of course, proud teachers (both academic and ballet) and other normal types scattered throughout, as well as dancers from lower levels hoping that someday they would be in Workshop. Still, those 6 species were enough to keep the intermissions lively!

4.6.05

Who's Next?

This week, NYCB loses Peter Boal to PNB and Jock Soto to retirement. This weekend, NYCB's School of American Ballet celebrates the Advanced classes by putting on their annual "Workshop". 

As I watched the dancers, I wondered which of the young men I was seeing would be the next "Peter Boal" or "Jock Soto". They all seemed good candidates. Of course, I don't know dance or dancers the way a professional critic or dancer would, but still. I'd name names, but there is a part of me that says I'm biased because I know many of them personally. 

The dances were also interesting. Benjamin Millepied (and isn't that a great name for a choreographer?!) and Christopher D'Amboise (son of Jacques, brother of Charlotte) created new works for this Workshop. One piece was danced by technically better dancers than the other, but the choreography for the other was better (again, can't name names). The final piece was a Balanchine crowd pleaser, "Western Symphony". It'll be interesting to read the professional opinion, to see how good I am at critiquing these things. 

If you're ever in NYC in late May/early June, Workshop is not-to-be missed. I've seen Ashley Bowder and Carla Korbes do star turns that led them straight to the company, I've seen Christopher Weeldon's newest choreography, and I've seen the future of ballet in America.