Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Monday, April 22, 2013


This is Russ stalking me at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.  He does this a lot, pretending to be some kind of wild animal or a Sasquatch, thundering through the woods knocking down trees as he gives chase.  The Parisian couple reading their newspapers did not realise how close they came to being eaten that day.


Friday, April 19, 2013

not restrained in any way


My lovely neighbour Mike, who thought my name (rather than the dog's) was Ophelia for a long time, has just added another dog to his family.  This brings him up to three, which makes our four seem not so crazy these days.  He has three big dogs.


After school I had a student present to me his graduation portfolio, which is a graduation requirement in this province.  His exit letter was about his best high school memories and a big part of it was about my class, which was touching.  (I hope he wrote it from the heart and not because he knew I was his evaluator.)  Each teacher is required to evaluate three portfolios, but because I have trouble saying no to people I care about, I took on sixteen of them.  Portfolios are taking up most of my free time these days, but I really enjoy them, really enjoy the opportunity to know my students better on their way out, know them as real people.  Sometimes when my job makes me grouchy I forget how much these people matter to me.  I blame Crazy Sue.


I started trying to label things because I realised that "Crazy Sue" was the only category with any weight.  I can't have Crazy Sue be the thing I write about most.  After labelling half-heartedly for fifteen minutes or so I realised that I definitely talk about teaching and books more than I talk about Crazy Sue. Phew.


Would you like to know what I'm reading?  I'm reading, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain.  The book is Carolynn's recommendation and so far it is very interesting.  Sometimes introverts feel they need to overcome their introversion in order to be successful -- this book talks about ways in which introverts already are successful and ways in which to use one's strengths rather than fighting one's nature.  That idea resonates peacefully.


Last night I dreamed that Palmer dog could sing.  Not the way he sings now when I ask him to sing ("arrrrrrrooooo") but actual singing.  Sort of operatic.  He was singing, Show Me The Way, by Styx.  He couldn't remember all the lyrics so he just kept singing, "Showwwww me the way!" over and over, but I was still very impressed with his efforts and couldn't wait for Shawn to come home from work so I could prove to him that the dog isn't stupid.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

is there no way out of the mind?

Jesse reacts to tragedies like an adolescent though he is nearly forty.  He also reacts to days off work and disappointments and the 'flu in much the same way.  My own reactions are wrapped in soft cotton batting so nothing feels sharp or tastes of anything but wool.  The skies are lower than ever and I stuff grey clouds in my ears so I do not accidentally overhear you.

You look smaller than I thought you were.  Impossible that I have grown.  Your mouth moves terribly fast, twisted in a half-smile that says you know a secret;  I cannot hear you.  You are inevitably quoting Fight Club or Sylvia Plath.  Familiar with both I will miss nothing if I do not stop to listen.  Fight Club is a book, you know, I think of saying (to the sky)...


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Crazy Sue must die

Yesterday I phoned the union (gah) to ask them what I should do about Crazy Sue.  The fact that Crazy Sue has pushed me to the point where I feel it necessary to consult my union, which I loathe, is indicative how desperate I have become.

The person I spoke with was kind but totally married to her protocol.  That is to say that while I was hoping she would give me the formal go-ahead to kick Crazy Sue down a tall flight of stairs, or provide me with recipes for undetectable poisons, instead she told me that I should bring in a mediator whose job it will be to help us set professional boundaries and that kind of crap.  I told her there's no such thing as being professional when dealing with Crazy Sue, but the woman wouldn't budge.  She said I could file a harrassment grievance but that if I did so the results could be unexpected.  This sounded ominous and I was not certain whether she was trying to protect me or protect Crazy Sue.  Regardless, I decided to take her advice so I could, at least on paper, appear to have taken the right steps in the right order.

On her advice I sent Crazy Sue a coolly worded email expressing my hope that we could develop a more respectful and professional relationship and encouraged her to contact the union to arrange mediation, and to respond to me in writing to tell me whether she is willing to participate in the process.  (Gross.)

Crazy Sue, who only checks her email once a day at the best of times, did not receive my email until today.  And although she did not respond to me at all, apparently she phoned the Vice Principal and told her that she felt "blindsided" by my decision to take this step as she had no idea that were still any problems between us.  This made me laugh.  A.)  Crazy Sue doesn't understand that she is supposed to talk to the union and not the admin, and that this can get her in trouble with the union.  And B.)  I now think that after Crazy Sue spews venom on me she feels purged and happy, and doesn't realise that I am being burned by it for a long time afterward.

This brash style of communication is very difficult for me to relate to because I tend to be overly (wastefully) sensitive in my communications with colleagues.  I try to read their minds and hearts, and probably miss the mark at least as often as I hit it because I tend to ascribe to people the same feelings I have rather than recognizing that most people aren't such big babies.

Now it remains to be seen whether Crazy Sue opts to participate in mediation or not, but my understanding of the union's system is that she doesn't really have a choice.  I think she will participate. But I sort of hope the whole thing makes her so uncomfortable that she decides to move to another province. Oh, but that's just me projecting my emotional response on someone else again.  That's how I feel.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

charge it like a puzzle

Usually I trim my own hair.  I grab chunks of it and hack away at it with dull scissors.  When I think I am done I hold a mirror above my head so I can look at the reflection in the bathroom mirror and then lop off a few stray bits.  Then I shake it out and forget about it for several months.  It isn't an expensive system, and not very often does anyone point out that it isn't exactly perfect.  Most of the time it suits me just fine.

But today for some reason I decided to get a real haircut, the kind where they wash it and blow it dry, and spray sweet smelling expensive things on your head and then try to sell them to you.  The woman cutting my hair proclaimed my artwork "interesting" as she evened up the jaggedy line.  She used fancy scissors that cut multiple layers into my hair at once, a feat I cannot accomplish with my blunt kitchen scissors.  I have to admit that the end result was significantly better than my own efforts.  It kind of makes me sad that it won't last and I will inevitably feel compelled to bust out the safety scissors and make it all raggedy again.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Crazy Sue again

I'm thinking about leaving the theatre program and finding a job teaching something else.  Anything else, really, that will put me in a different part of the building so I do not need to spend any time around or near Crazy Sue.

This morning I spoke with one of the administrators about my fears about next year.  (Crazy Sue is slotted to teach in the same space with me again.)  I explained about the unpredictable attacks, the resulting anxiety, the scars on the children who have borne witness.  And the administrator said she sympathized, she cared, she valued me, and blah blah blah blah, but couldn't promise she could do anything about it.  This is pretty much what I anticipated.  It kind of negates all the positives, but I also empathize with the fact that administrators in this province have no teeth because the union has them very much neutered.

So now what?  I told admin my next step would be an internal transfer to a new position if one comes up that works.  And failing that, perhaps transfer to another school.  And they appreciate me and they care about me and they don't want me to go, blah blah blah blah.   But.  And that's where I think I probably need to draw the line for myself, for my own health.  Because Crazy Sue makes me sick.

My union rep says leaving is letting her win and that I should file a grievance.  This is unappealing, but I don't know, maybe I should do it.  The result will probably be mediation, a kiss and make up session, the thought of which makes me nauseous, but the union rep seems to think it's a good idea in that it creates a paper trail.  I don't really care about the paper trail that much.  Crazy Sue will kill me and eat me before the trail is long enough for them to find her at the end of it, crouched over my carcass devouring my intestines with her bloody snout glistening in the moonlight.  (I love catastrophic language; that made me laugh out loud like a lunatic.)


Friday, April 05, 2013

liturgical nuttiness

Yesterday I had a meeting during lunch break at which I was unable to eat, so I was forced to sneak food in the block after lunch.  This was my senior Drama class.  They found it terribly funny that I was eating a cup of yogurt with a plastic fork (because I didn't happen to have a spoon)  and funnier still that upon finishing the yogurt, I hung onto the fork for the rest of the block (because I was planning to wash it and reuse it) and ocassionally waved it to emphasize a point, pointed it at students like a microphone, and nibbled on its tines lovingly while watching student performances.

Today when I showed up for class it was apparent that something was wrong.  First of all, the students were all there before me and this never happens.  Second, they were quiet.  This also never happens.   They were suspicious and strange and not making eye contact.

Suddenly I realised that they ALL had plastic forks, all thirty of them!

Gad, I love these little weirdos.  Really love them.  This is the first class at this school that I've taught since eighth grade, and now they're about to grow up and graduate and I'm going to miss them.