Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Office Politics Issue: Please Help Me!

So my question of the day is this: Is there anyone out there who can actually navigate through the turbulence of daily office political maneuvering and come out at the end of the day without having had to resort to using a barf bag, crying copious snot-producing tears, devouring a 2 pound sack of Hershey’s, drinking an entire bottle of Bacardi sans Coke Zero (because you’re out), or dramatically quitting the stupid job in a huff. Note that these options are not exclusive; I have personally used several of these tension-reducing strategies simultaneously after a particularly bad day.

One piece of good advice that I routinely ignore is to stop checking my office email at 5PM, so I can legitimately put off until tomorrow whatever it is that I’m not going to want to deal with and therefore have a good night’s sleep. Current time here in Georgia: 2:36 AM. Status: Wide awake, worried, angry, hurt, and slightly nauseated from the number of Hershey’s Special Dark “Fun” bars I have consumed. Let me just say that the empty wrappers cover a radius of 2 feet around my desk chair, which can be considered the center of the circle. If you’re an ambitious sort, feel free to calculate the area of the circle covered by chocolate foil.

But I digress. It’s 2:47AM now and I want to figure out a workable strategy or two for dealing with the issue my close colleague brought to my attention at 9:05 PM. It seems that I said something on Thursday (we had a long holiday and today is Tuesday) which offended him so deeply that he no longer wishes to work with me. A simple “I’m sorry” will not mend this, an excuse such as “I was having a bad day” will not mend this, and, quite frankly, I am coming to the conclusion that I cannot fix my mistake this time.

That said, it’s 3:17 AM and I’m beginning to wonder if I’m concentrating on the wrong thing. Perhaps what I should really be considering is not HOW to fix the problem; it’s whether or not I really WANT to fix it at all. Is it worth the time and the emotionally exhausting measures that I have had to resort to in the past when dealing with this colleague? I am weary of measuring my every word in order to avoid giving offense and then finding out that I have still chosen the wrong ones anyway.

It is possible for me to arrange my schedule so that I no longer work directly with my affronted colleague. Of course, I will have to notify my boss of the change in schedule. Maybe she’ll be a peach and not ask too many questions. How likely is that? Yeah, that’s what I think, too. My brain begins to churn out things I can tell her that won’t make me look imbecilic. 3:29 AM  Sure wish I could pull a Scarlett O’Hara, tell myself that “tomorrow is another day,” and just go the heck to sleep.

I think I’ll go try some yoga breathing techniques while reminding myself that I have complete control over how I choose to react to nasty situations like this. I’m sure that’ll do the trick. Sigh. 3:44 AM

I’m pretty sure this won’t be the last time I offend a colleague, so tried and true strategies that you have used for dealing with these situations would be extremely helpful. I’ll start a list and post them on the fridge. Please. Help. Me.

Creative Commons Photo "Starling Fight Club" by Angela N.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My Scientific Banana-Philosophy Research

I have recently noticed that people’s basic philosophy of life can be understood by observing the bananas they choose to put in their carts at the grocery store. No, I haven’t “gone bananas,” thank you very much. Jeez, stop punning around and read carefully. This is an important and serious topic. The results of my (unofficial) research indicate that there is a direct correlation between the color of the bananas people choose to buy and their perspectives on life.

People who buy bunches of very green bananas are highly optimistic. They believe that they won’t be dying any time soon; stepping out in front of a bus on the way home from the store is not going to happen to these people. They are confident they will be around to watch those bananas ripen and to eat those golden yellow bananas in a leisurely, relaxed manner. Life is long, man; ripe bananas are worth waiting for.

Then there are the people who buy bunches of bright yellow bananas. They have a carpe diem philosophy. They’re all about not bothering to wait for green bananas to ripen when they can buy them ripe and eat them right away. Life is short, man; don’t deny yourself the joy of eating a perfectly ripe banana today.

Finally, there are the people who buy bananas that are yellow with a couple of brown spots already mottling their skins. These people are highly pessimistic. For heaven’s sake, within hours, those bananas will be rotten! These people must actually doubt that they will make it home from the store at all. Life is fleeting, man; eat your bananas now!

So what does your banana purchase say about you? You just may be surprised by the answer!

Photo courtesy of Sharon Mollerus via Creative Commons: Flickr

Thursday, July 17, 2014

I am NOT a Hoarder!

For quite some time now, Chris has been waging a war on “stuff.” He is a minimalist, and the rule at our house is that when we buy something new, we have to throw away or donate two of something old. No problem when it comes to clothing or shoes. Old clothing and shoes wear out or no longer fit, so getting rid of these items is an easy decision. For me, that’s pretty much the sum total of what I find easy to dispose of.

I’m not a hoarder – famous last words – in the sense that my mummified body will eventually be found crushed under boxes of old newspapers and empty cartons of kitty litter and Chinese take-out. I don’t like clutter in my living space. I don’t like to dust knick knacks, whats-its, doo-dads, or chachkies. I do have a small collection of porcelain figures that my mom and I brought back from China and I love them, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they broke or I had to sell them. I have photos of them, and even looking at the photo makes me smile and remember my trips to China.

However, not being a hoarder in the true sense of the term does not mean that I am a minimalist. Open my closets at your own risk. And whatever you do, “…don’t look in the basement.” There’s a reason that was the tag line for the 1973 horror movie The Forgotten. To repurpose another cliché, “Who knows what evil lurks…?” Okay, so maybe I’m employing a wee bit of hyperbole. I must mention, however, that the lights in the basement work on a random basis and that it’s really dark when the lights won’t come on, which adds to the horror motif. You can rest assured that the intermittent lighting isn’t caused by a ghost, though, because Chris doesn’t want me to bring home any more pets.

Now that I don’t teach middle school, there is an entire classroom in the spacious finished basement, minus chairs and desks. Need clipboards for 30 students? I have them. Looking for a Venn diagram template with three or even four circles? I have it. Need a wooden snake you can use as a hands-on tool when you teach “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi?” You can borrow (keep) mine. I have boxes of grammar worksheets, literary analysis graphic organizers, and maps of Asia. I have boxes of lesson plans you could use to teach 7th graders or adapt to teach anyone. Oh, and let’s not forget the boxes of posters and class sets of novels. I could go back into the 7th grade classroom tomorrow, and not even have to buy a stapler or paper clips.

The classroom in the basement is directly adjacent to the “apartment.” Packed so tightly no one can actually walk across the room, there is a bed, dresser, desk, sofa, coffee tables, and armchairs to completely furnish an apartment. There are also dishes, glasses, pots and pans, Tupperware, silverware, and decorative cookie cutters in large, unmarked boxes.

It doesn’t matter that I no longer teach middle school, and that my son (who owns the furnishings) shows no signs of wanting to move out; I am hesitant to get rid of this “stuff.” Why? It’ll be useful someday. Right? Won’t it? I won’t want to have to buy new supplies if I go back into teaching, and I may need those furnishings when my sons put me in a senior home in the future. I just can’t seem to get past the idea that I may actually NEED this stuff in order to minimalize it. Now wait: that’s the definition of hoarding, isn’t it? Well, darn.

Link to photo: 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Tutors: The Future of Education

I've been depressed lately concerning the fact that I'm no longer "a real teacher." I'm "only a tutor." (boo hoo, sigh, pout) Now don't get me wrong; I believe that tutoring helps students and helping students is my goal. Chris Scullion has gotten tired of listening to me whine, though, and has written this blog post to help me understand the future of education as he sees it. I've got to say, I feel a lot happier now. I'm a TUTOR! Vicki

“I for one welcome our new computer overlords.” Ken Jennings had it right when he lost to IBM’s Watson on Jeopardy. Computers and robots are taking over various tasks previously and currently handled by people.  By some estimates, 80% of all welds today are done by robots. When was the last time you visited a human bank teller?  You can even check out at the grocery store or hardware store using a computer instead of a human cashier.  You should be able to figure out your chosen career’s longevity by watching for signs of computer automation.

What about teaching?  Vicki (the owner of this blog) is a teacher.  Or rather, she has been a teacher and likely will be again.  Right now, she’s a tutor.  She recently gave a workshop at the University of Georgia on the use of video in the classroom.  She has an article published on classroom “flipping,” where students watch video lectures at home on the computer and do what we would call “homework” in the classroom under the watchful eye of a human teacher.

And then there are MOOCs -- Massively Open Online Courses.  Here, a major university will present a recorded series of lectures on a specific subject, with homework and tests graded by humans. Each one-hour lecture can reach thousands of students over many semesters.

My contention is that this future vision of education leads to one inevitable conclusion… the future of teaching lies with tutors.  A computerized course, or a records lecture, or a MOOC means that the “teacher” or professor may not be available to the student for extra help or clarification.  But the tutors are always there.  They’ve been there throughout history, and they will become ever more important as our “computer overlords” take over the repetitive grunt work currently performed by the high-priced PhDs on the university payroll.

Link to original photo: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2536578/Supercomputer-beat-Jeopardy-champ-Ken-Jennings-gets-1B-investment-cloud-service-help-ANYTHING.html

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Goodbye Shoes

The song “Good Girl” by Carrie Underwood has been bopping around in my head for the past few days now. This morning in the shower, as I was singing off-key and most likely using the wrong lyrics, I found myself pondering – yes, I do mean that in the sense of  “searching for deeper meaning” – exactly what “goodbye shoes” look like. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this gem of a song, Carrie tries to convince a “good girl” that her new guy isn’t going to be good for her, so she “better get to getting on [her] goodbye shoes.”

So back to my pondering on which shoes constitute “goodbye shoes.” The obvious answer, of course, is scarlet, mile-high stilettos. If your man is cheating on you, red stilettos are definitely appropriate goodbye shoes for an “eat your heart out, loser” approach. I bet this strategy works really well if you’re wearing those shoes with that skin-tight little black dress you save for special occasions…and if you don’t trip as you’re walking toward the door.

However, wearing stiletto heels would be a big disadvantage if your man has decided that taking a swipe at you with his fist is acceptable. In my opinion, a man hitting a woman is NEVER acceptable and should ALWAYS result in the woman putting on and using her goodbye shoes immediately. In this case, fast running shoes are probably your best bet when it comes to choosing                                                                                                 goodbye shoes.

Now what if you and your man have simply agreed to go your own ways for whatever reason? I guess your choice of goodbye shoe has to reflect the destination “your own way” is taking you. If your goodbye is taking place in divorce court, I suggest wearing a standard pair of black pumps. After that, if your way is taking you to the beach, your goodbye shoes might be flip-flops or sandals. For the big city, goodbye flats would definitely be helpful when navigating the stairs down to the subway.

How about those of us who aren’t planning on saying goodbye to our men? Do we just miss out on the opportunity to wear goodbye shoes? I guess that’s a moot point.

As you can see, I have way over-thought these relatively simple song lyrics, also effectively managing to avoid actually doing “real” work today. I hope you have a wonderful day in whatever shoes you’re wearing!