Monday, August 8, 2016

Choice of Attention

Choice of attention - to pay attention to this and ignore that - 
is to the inner life what choice of action is to the outer. 
In both cases, a man is responsible for his choice 
and must accept the consequences, whatever they may be.

-W.H. Auden

Good morning. 

Today is the second Monday in August. There are still three to come, though I won't be spending them at the house in my pajamas, sipping my coffee & watching Gilmore Girls reruns on Free Form, remembering during a commercial break to post the blog. 

My life & my schedule will soon change drastically, & I have no idea what that means for the blog. Will I still feel like writing? Absolutely. Will I have the time, energy, & mental fortitude to do so? I've no clue. My Monday mornings will be pretty booked what with all the students desiring to learn & whatnot, so, assuming I've something to say, soon you may have to wait until later in the day to read it, which I think you can live with because, while I am not a statistician, the blog traffic ticker tells me many of you sit & read much later in the day anyway. I like the Monday post; I like the routine of it, so we shall see how it all shakes out & we can hold hands through this period of transition. 

At present I'm pretty heavily involved in the life of Katherine Parr, the sixth & final wife of Henry VIII. In fact, I've gone from a weeks-long stretch of attending meetings & reading little in the way of fiction to reading a lot. My head is bursting & I had to narrow today's general thought train considerably. Choo-Choo! I just finished Lord of the Flies, am a scene away from finishing A Streetcar Named Desire, & am about halfway through The Ivy Crown, which is this month's book club book. I do need to read Pygmalion, or reread it since it's been nearly two decades since my first read, but the Tudors are just endlessly fascinating. 

Aside from all the reading, last week I crossed a few additional items off the to-do list. Reagan & I both had our hair trimmed Tuesday afternoon. Since May, Reagan has visited the endocrinologist, the dentist, the eye doctor, the vaccinating shot nurse, & now has been freed of her split ends; no child is more prepared for the rigors of kindergarten. 

Unfortunately, Henry & I are not as prepared as Reagan for the upcoming school year. Henry's issues revolve around his late, late bedtime & his laissez-fare attitude regarding urinating in the potty. My issues are also two-fold. We shall discuss them a fold at a time.

On Saturday, my mom asked me if I am ready. You know, I don't know. I've done a great deal of reading, & my power points are coming along, & I've created a month-by-month outline for each of my classes. There are moments I feel ready, & moments (& these usually occur around one o'clock in the morning when I'm reading my book club book & I panic & hate myself & start working on a power point) that I feel I am nowhere near ready to actually stand in front of young people & teach them various things. I am ready to teach Hemingway & The Sun Also Rises, but just when I am brimming with confidence, I remember Beowulf & sink into despair. 

While there may be no obvious answer to the question of my readiness to teach, I can say with certainty that my sad, white room is nowhere near ready to entertain students (or their parents). Last Thursday morning I had no plans to do anything but stay at the house, wait for the plumber, & then, once the kind plumber was done retrieving my long-lost hair from the bathroom sink, the kids & I were going to head to the grocery store. While drinking my second cup of coffee & making small talk with the plumber over the yelps of my neurotic dog, I had a panic attack about the state of my classroom. I soon loaded the kids up & the three of us spent a couple of hours in my room. 

Understand that what I can accomplish decor-wise & organization-wise with the kids there is minimal, what with twenty trips to the bathroom, Reagan playing "library" with the stacks of books I'm attempting to organize, & Henry playing "ram the rolling chair into everything." I did manage to give my board a good cleaning & make some organizational headway. The walls are still bare, but that should change later this week. I have plans. 

I'm going to be traveling to the school alone several mornings this week for different trainings (technology, etc.) & once those are completed, I am going to haul an incredible amount of stuff to the local media center to be laminated. I've bought posters of book covers for one wall, & the bulletin board on the opposite wall will be transformed into a timeline of British literature. The plan is to cover the board in brown paper (I don't do bright colors), string two lines of twine across, & use clothespins to hang the newly laminated decor. I like the clothespins idea because I can easily remove or add whatever I want. I don't relish the idea of redoing a bulletin board in a month. Or ever. 

A sneak peek:

Pictured above is Virginia Woolf. She won't be alone on the bulletin board, but I haven't taken pictures of anything else & it's unlikely I'll do so before the completion of this blog. She'll be joined by some informative posters about Charlotte Bronte & Jane Austen, a couple of Shakespeare quotes, a few lines from a Tennyson poem, & likely a Wordsworth poem or two. Other awesome Brits will be added later, as well as some likeness of the British flag. The American authors I'll cover with my AP class will be relegated to the opposite wall because I LOVE A GOOD THEME. 

I haven't unrolled the posters yet. I don't want them damaged before I can get them laminated, but here's a sampling:

And no, I won't be teaching A Farewell to Arms, technically. However, when they come to me students should've already read it, & I will thoroughly review it with the honors students as they prepare to take their AP exam . . . & if you thought I was going to spend money on a bunch of book cover posters & laminate them & display them & exclude A Farewell to Arms then you don't know me at all. 

Before you ask, yes, of course I'll take & share pictures once the room is completed. I know how much you care. 

As luck would have it, Trey took the kids to sleep at his parents' house Friday night. With the kids safely at his parents' house & several hours of daylight ahead of me, I made a bad decision & headed to Wal-Mart. Before I even entered the store, a kind woman in the parking lot told me all of their registers were down. I of course immediately left. 

Between Lowe's & Target, I got most of what was on my list of (1) household necessities, (2) my school needs, & (3) the kid's school needs. There were a few items I had to order on Amazon, which I did while seated on the couch with enough Mexican takeout for three people spread before me. Wal-Mart was not my last poor decision of the evening.

Once the online ordering was completed, I watched Gilmore Girls & browsed online for framing solutions. What does that even mean?, you're wondering. Once I hot glue my laminated book cover posters to my schoolroom wall, I want to frame them somehow, but in a way that doesn't involve making holes in the cinderblock. 

In the process of trying to decide how to "frame" my book cover posters, I discovered Washi tape. I had never before heard of this stuff. Washi tape is tape that is pretty, basically. It comes in all sorts of colors & patterns. It is an exciting discovery for me & I think it is exactly what I'll need to really nail the book cover poster wall (see what I did there? . . . nail). 

There are entire blogs devoted to using Washi tape. Here's an example of what I'm looking to do:

Imagine my surprise when, having asked on Facebook where I might purchase some Washi tape, I discovered not only has everyone else in the world heard of it, but basically every store I visit sells it. I have likely passed it hundreds of times on store shelves. 

How many rolls of Washi tape do you pass daily? Most of us are busy, & our time, money, & energy are limited. You don't notice all the black Honda Accords until you decide you might want to buy a black Honda Accord, right? (this is totally hypothetical, in case Trey's reading . . . I've no interest in a black Honda Accord). People have always been traversing the roads in black Honda Accords; the black Accords don't appear because you took an interest in them. How many people do I, do you, orbit constantly, only taking notice when you need them? What else, who else, is out there, right under my nose? 

At the beginning of this year the book club read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. I've been revisiting it because I'll be reading it with all the seniors (right before Christmas, if my nifty outline of the year plays out as I hope). The book, comprised of letters written by a demon, is one I wish I'd read in high school. At one point, the demon (Screwtape) apprises his nephew, the recipient of the letters, of the following: 

It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds; in reality our best work is done by keeping things out. 

I hope to encourage students to raise their heads & open their eyes & look intently at the world around them, at the people around them. I want to lure them out of the corners of their own mind. Reading is an excellent way to do this, & some of the characters into whose skin we'll slip will offer students a window to the world through which they've never peered. I am excited about that, however students may well be sitting in class with a roll of Washi tape, someone they've never noticed who is beautiful, or hurting, or wise. Let's face it, high school students & adults are notoriously fond of forming cliques with inflexible membership lists. 

I'm happy to have discovered Washi tape, even if it took me nearly thirty-six years to do so. I could've used it at times in the past. Limited though I am in the crafts department, I think I'll be able to fashion some nice faux frames for my book cover posters with the Washi tape, once I find a pattern & color I love. 

I hope I am never so old & set in my ways that life's little discoveries fail to delight me (or worse, continue to evade me), & may I - may we all! - always see life through a thickly metaphorical lens. 


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