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Battering Ram     Despite having done this lesson before, it was an up hill battle all the way.
     Since deciding to re-attempt Holly’s course, I have been beset by potential roadblock after roadblock. Friday the 13th , was appropriately the last day of 3rd quarter—only 48 more school days left, two months! Friday was also the cut off date for seniors to submit the paperwork portion of their senior-portfolios including letters of recommendation and some idiot teacher agreed to do more than his self-imposed limit of ten letters then promptly forgot about it. It came home to roost last week. Not only was I trying to administer final homework and projects—and correct them—but I was writing letters at top spead. I don’t use form-letters. I write real ones each taking about a ½ an hour or more. I inadvertently made an already busy after school even busier. Luckily, I had done half of them previously.
     On Monday there had been a mandatory after-school meeting with representatives of the District Office for those who had been “selected” to burn a week of vacation this year at the Model School’s Conference in Atlanta, GA.
     “A sign of your commitment to this effort will be the purchase of your own airline tickets—do this quickly before prices become too unreasonable. Reimbursement will soon follow…” What makes these guys think I’ve got a spare $600.00 for plane tickets regardless of reimbursement—I mean, hell, they know how much I make. They pay me!
     On Wednesday an all day visit by the county department of school’s ACCESS scholarship committee needed a teacher panel to interview. Guess who got “asked” to be on the panel? Yeppers….they called out the dinosaur. Suddenly I had to prep sub-plans for an extended block period. I do NOT simply say, “read pages 22-35 and answer the questions on page 37”. Any fool can do that. I’m a teacher, not a baby-sitter.
     Teaching seniors has its hazards and the helicopter parents were filling my email with confirmation and counseling requests because Jr. was not getting the grade mom and dad wanted for him—nor was he showing the minimum responsibility I’d like him too.
     Then there were the Tri-annual Review of progress and Present Levels of Performance forms that Resource required to be filled out…”ASAP…” complete with a review of strategies used in the classroom for those students in question. One even required me to connect my accommodations (those based on their recommendations) to State Standards—nothing like having your professional judgment questioned. If these are so damn important, how about a heads up: “…in three weeks Student X is up for his Tri-annual…”?
     And then there was the soft-lock down wherein students had to be moved to a cordoned-off section of the campus while a medical emergency was tended to.
     Oh, yes…did I mention Prom Committee, Student Council and Staff Collaboration meetings, tutoring the needy and a constitution writing consult with the officer of a new pan-high school club? One might wonder where preparing, delivering and cleaning-up after lessons comes in—you know, the thing I was hired to do? So do I, so do I 😦
     Sometimes I’d swear that site and D.O. administration conspire to come up with adjunct duties during quarter’s end and scramble to get grade books settled just to see how much more they can squeeze from us. I suppose I should be thankful that after 24+ years, I’m still light enough on my feet to do the dance, but as a result, I put in a week’s worth of (with the commute) 14 hour days.
     In my next life, I’m coming back as an art teacher—and that’s not a dig at the art department. Those crazy people work hard too, but their grading seems to go a lot quicker than it does for English teachers. I know that the amount of paper comes with the territory, but I must see a stack at least three feet tall every other week!
     What ever possessed me to choose Language Arts? Ah, yes, that must have been that love of literature and writing, which finally brings me around to the point: I did get the first lesson of HTTS done.

     Between work and dinner and sleep, a bagpipe lesson, minimal practice, a chapter or two of my latest read, loving but demanding relatives and a (now three week bout of Bronchitis that leaves my ribs sore and chest rattling) that keeps threatening to become something more sinister, I did it. It took me longer to do the lesson than I’d have hoped…about 10 days rather than a week, but I got it done!
     It might be worth noting how I approach the material. I know it’s too much effort for some, but it is a solid study for myself.
     First I d/l it all—and movies included—and then survey it all noting headings and parts after which I write up a table of contents and goals-and-objectives sheet. I then print lesson materials and place in their own labeled binder. When all is ready, I then read and annotate the lesson, with a highlighter in hand making notes and observations. After this I re-read the lesson while taking reading-notes in my note-book, recording the main points and then responding in note form. Finally I attempt the homework.
     I did not tackle the Quick Fix, the Walkthrough or the Hotseat portions of the lesson, all of which I have dealt with before on my first go round and will revisit in the future. One thing about Holly’s lessons is that they are packed with a serious amount of good solid material but considering the above, I think following Holly’s advice and concentrating on the main lesson is the best strategy for now.
     I did not get to the HTTS forum “First Writing Discussion” though I really wanted to so as to I feel part of the class. I may attempt to do so later on (the day of composition) if I can find time, but a stack of 150+ essays calls to me like a siren that won’t be denied and I’ll have to give them their due. Alas, that is the price paid for concentrating on Holly’s lesson: a Sunday spent grading papers rather than doing personals, convalescing or prepping Wednesdays blog-post.

     What do I want to accomplish with these blogged How To Think Sideways Sitreps? Not to be overly dramatic, but in a very real way, the hosts of Mordor surround the city and Grond is knocking at the gates. I believe, with all my heart, that I’m fighting a battle as grim as any described in the fantasy literature I love. It is a battle against time, my own weaknesses and the demands of a world I’ve created and must somehow recreate. Failure is not an option because I’m not sure I’d have the strength to rally once again. While the aim of the course is to help writers to a career in writing, that goal is so huge, it is too bright for me to contemplate right now. I cannot look into the sun. If I can simply and successfully complete each lesson, then I will consider it victory. What comes after will come.
     These Sitreps are then a battle report, a call to empty space to bear witness, a measure and method of self-accountability that I hope will fortify me to keep my grip and not let go as I have in the past. I will not blame circumstances any more: death in family, sickness, the demands of those without a clue. I am the captain of my fate. I am in charge. In the words of one of my literary characters,
     “The twin edged sword of responsibility means both that I can cut a path through the enemy as well as cut myself, but no matter which, it is I who wield the blade.”
     Sounds grim, doesn’t it…maybe overly dramatic? I know…but that’s because this is just about the most desperate and serious thing I have ever been moved to attempt and so much depends on it.