Category Archives: UW-Richland

Monday Morning Nonetheless

“And all my senses rise against this coming back to you”  Leonard Cohen

Almost an ampersand of fog
against the bare trees on the bluff.
The wind must have swirled it around,
or maybe it’s smoke. It’s cold enough
someone could have had a fire last night.

Such beauty and such mystery right there
on a Monday morning, nonetheless,
I have to drive beyond it to where
light industrial meets water treatment
and everything is ordinary, planned, and organized,
and on the other side of that, my job.fullsizerender

Consolation for the Coming Dark

1
Call it what you want–global weirding,
climate change–it’s just flat-out wrong
to hit 80 degrees in mid-October, in Wisconsin,
mosquitoes swarming like it’s June.
Humid muck and sweat, it makes me long for snow,
reconciles me to the dimming of the light.

2
The third trimester has to be ungodly
uncomfortable, the backaches, the chafing,
the raw, red stretch marks. The pain
that’s coming seems at that point,
if not nothing, then at least something
bearable, something, anything, better
than lumbering around. Just get it out.

3
The love that died,
the job that changed,
the tree that lost its leaves.
Rusted muffler,
curdled milk,
worn out shoes.
The show that jumped the shark,
the friend who wouldn’t go home,
the skirt that fell out of style.
Insufficient postage
on the Star Wars stamp
you found in your desk.

4
What’s next and what’s enough and when
will all of this seem clear and would a funeral help?
To signal things are different now,
I know it’s different now,
the past is done, I know it’s done,
I’m ready to move on?
Tomorrow’s wonderful and awful
and so’s today and is tomorrow’s sunrise,
possibly orange and pink and lovely,
any kind of consolation for the coming dark?
__________

I’ve been enjoying Rob Bell’s podcast lately. He had Peter Rollins on a couple times (always blows my mind) and then a great one on Seasons, which made me think maybe we should have a funeral at my workplace, for the way things used to be.

See, budget cuts have made this a very different place to work. In the classroom it’s much the same (wonderful as always, I tell people, and it’s true), but outside class–really different. We’re functioning, for the most part, doing our best, but it’s really, really different.

Then I decided, no, we shouldn’t have a funeral, because there are already enough people worried my sweet little campus will close.  I don’t think it will close, and having a funeral wouldn’t have meant that I was thinking it would close, but I could imagine someone seeing it that way.

Having a funeral would have meant I understand the past is gone.   Whatever was, isn’t now.  Having a funeral would have meant I could feel what I’m feeling, really give it full vent, and then move on.  Look around and see things with clearer eyes.

So, no funeral.  But I might write down a couple things I particularly miss, and light them on fire in my backyard, and tell them goodbye.  I might sing a little song.  I might read this out loud, from Ecclesiastes 3:

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

And then just because the changes at work come from budget cuts of which I don’t approve, I might also read this one from Ecclesiastes 9:11:

“the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to those with understanding, nor yet favour to those with skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

And then I think I might feel better. Or maybe not.

 

 

 

Totally on top of things! Oh, except for

I’ve done something today that I have almost never done in almost 30 years of teaching. I finished grading a set of skill check assignments for my Creativity & Problem-Solving class, and the moment I finished them–BAM!  I am 100% caught up with grading.  There is nothing for me to grade, not even if I wanted to (which I almost never do, which is why this almost never happens).

Here’s how the rest of the day was supposed to go–I’d finish grading, work on my to do list for next week and do a Sunday meeting a day early, take a hot bath (it’s a nice, chilly October day here in Wisco), and then eat some supper and head to American Players Theatre to see Beckett’s Endgame, with some of my absolute favorite APT actors.

Except, when I bothered to actually look at my calendar, and then the actual ticket–it was a matinee. And of course the matinee had already begun.  I suppose I could’ve rushed out & gotten seated, but wow did I not want to do that in the very small, very intimate Touchstone Theater.

So, oh well.   The nice thing is that I got results yesterday from the battery of cognitive tests I took in September to get a baseline of my functioning.  My dad has Alzheimer’s, so I wanted to know what my baseline was, but I was also curious about various brain-farts and space-outs I had over the last couple of years.  The doctor I talked to yesterday said all of those could be attributed to being a middle-aged working mother who has a stressful job. He further said that almost all my test results were superior. Only one where I was on the low end of average.

Here’s the test I didn’t ace. It’s called Trail Making, and you have to draw a line from number to number, in order.  I remember not liking the test.  I remember feeling kind of dumb.  And bored. The visual part of it is part of what makes it make sense to me I was slower–I just don’t process things visually that well. But here’s a weird twist–the next test is harder because you have to do letters and numbers in order: 1-A, 2-B, 3-C, etc., and I did better on that one, apparently. It doesn’t surprise me, really–more challenging = more interesting to me.

And yes, now that I’ve found it online, I want to try it again and see if I get a better score.

Still, overall–very glad of the timing of the consult with the psychiatrist yesterday, so  I can, with confidence, attribute today’s space-out to just spacing out. It’s not a sign of any kind of decline. It’s only the second time in all my years of going to APT that I forgot I had matinee tix.

So no reason to freak out. And also, I’m really, really blissed out about being caught up with my grading. This bliss will last until Monday when I get two sets of essays and another skill check assignment.

Good news and bad news.  Like the rose below.  I dug it up when they redid the  street in front of my house and I really thought I had totally killed it, but n0–there’s a scraggly bit of rose that’s alive. The bad news is how sad my garage looks.  And yet–I’m caught up with grading.

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Foreground: mostly dead rose. One skinny living bit. And a sad garage.

Where is the Wisconsin Idea?

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The Wisconsin Idea is pretty simple. It means that whatever wonderful stuff goes on in a UW classroom, or lab, or program—that wonderful stuff should be shared. It has to leave campus. Almost everyone who talks about the Wisconsin Idea quotes an early UW president, Charles Van Hise, who said “I shall never be content until the beneficent influence of the University reaches every home in the state.” (I misquote that in my head as the “beneficent arm” and I kind of picture a weird cartoon in my head of a giant arm reaching in through someone’s kitchen window.  Now that I think about it, not really what I’m going for here. Nevermind about the arm.)

The Wisconsin Idea is the basis for the UW Extension, and all kinds of community service, all over the state. It’s a huge part of what makes the UW and Wisconsin wonderful.

Sometimes people talk about “sifting and winnowing” as the Wisconsin Idea, but technically, that’s from a plaque from the Board of Regents, or at least some of them, in 1894, and I think it’s the UW System mission statement (or maybe just UW Madison?), and it’s a part of state law. (Changing that is what a certain so-and-so called a “drafting error,” but which is actually a totally different category of error.)

So that’s what it is.  I was wondering how cool it would be if we could talk to each other not so much about WHAT it is, but WHERE it is.

I asked for help from these youngsters, who found the Wisconsin Idea in Arena.

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What I’m hoping is that more people will find the Wisconsin Idea, and make videos, and challenge other people to find it. People can use the hashtag #wefoundtheWisconsinIdea and tag me @MarnieDresser and post on Where is the Wisconsin Idea?.

The format I’m imagining for the videos is pretty short & simple:

We found the Wisconsin Idea in _____________.

(Explain how something from the UW helped some way, any way, OUTSIDE the UW.)

We challenge _______ and __________ and __________ to find the Wisconsin Idea!

(Merriment and confetti entirely appropriate.  Youngsters and community members and current students and former students most definitely appropriate.)

**I’m especially hoping 4-Hers will do videos because 1) 4H is awesome, 2)4H can be VERY creative, and  3)4H just simply IS the Wisconsin Idea.

Who’s the audience for this?  The people who make the videos–it’s a way for them to articulate for themselves what the Wisconsin Idea really does for them, right where they are.  Also for faculty and staff–there are a lot of negative messages out there about the work we do, and these should all be positive.

Beyond that, if there are people who don’t know what the idea is, or don’t understand why it’s important, well–these videos should make that clearer.

Will this spread like I want it to?  Will my one little raindrop be joined by others and turn into a rainshower? A downpour? A gullywasher?

Will other voices join my voice, or will it just be this one little voice? (Can’t help thinking of Barry Manilow.  Love that song, actually.  But I won’t post a video because the work he’s had done just makes me miss his 1970s nose.)

Maybe it’ll only ever be this one little video.  Even so–the Wisconsin Idea is out there. I know it is.  Want to help me show where?

 

 

Once Again The Wire Explains My Life to Me

 

Yes, once again The Wire has helped me figure out my life. WHY WHY WHY have I seen an uptick in essays that have a gorgeous structure—intro/thesis, clear transitions, academic style, good introductions of sources, clear citations AND YET almost entirely random quotes that DO NOT MATCH the general statements that precede them?

I’m just guessing on account of teaching to the test.

 

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The Wire Season 4, Episode 9, “Know Your Place”

In this episode of The Wire (NO SPOILERS! I’m only on Season 4 for chrissakes) Pryzbylewski is lamenting having to teach students to begin and end each answer in a formulaic way, and somehow KAZAAM! everything was clear to me.

I have clever students who are (as Ken Bain would point out) strategic enough to do what they need to do to get the grade they want, so they learn the format, and the tone, and YET:

It looks something like this (totally made up, not based on a particular student paper):

General statement: Even though girls are thought of as being cleaner and neater than boys, that’s not always true.

Quote used: “RQ1: How do male college students’ self-reported hand washing behaviors compare to perceptions of hand washing prevalence in the population of male students on campus?”

Or, even, “In a scholarly, peer-reviewed article called ‘Testing the Effects of Social Norms and Behavioral Privacy on Hand Washing: A Field Experiment,’ Lapinski et al. ask “how do male college students’ self-reported hand washing behaviors compare to perceptions of hand washing prevalence in the population of male students on campus?”‘(Lapinski et al. 341)*,

p.s. I’ve lost track of the whole single quote/double quote thing.

p.p.s. *I totally made up that page number

THE POINT IS, if you’re just skimming, the way I’m sure I would if I were an AP exam reader (and the way in which I’m sure actual AP readers don’t skim, right?), it sounds fine. But if you actually read for content, for substance, for MEANING, Jaysus, it don’t work at all. I mean, Jeebus.

Which reminds me of a Bible verse: 2 Timothy Chapter3, verses  (written, as we like to say, by the Apostle Paul to the lovely young Timothy):

“3 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will [all kinds of stuff Paul is bothered by, some of which I am bothered by, some not so much] having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”

A form of godliness, but denying its power. That so much applies to churches, and “godly” folks, but also language, to quote scripture: “The word of god is seldom, and  tremblingly partook.”

Did Paul get exhausted? This exhausts me. Have nothing to do with such  people.

 

 

What’s Waiting on the Other Side of Turmoil?

–a Thanksgiving poem in a difficult time,
ending with a paraphrase of Julian of Norwich
which also contains a reference to Husker Du

 

What’s waiting on the other side of turmoil?
We can hope, but the ugly truth is we don’t know
if all will be well and every everything will be well.

We’re partial to our own peculiar ordeal.
Our depth of field’s so shallow it can’t show
what’s waiting on the other side of turmoil.

It’s hard to line up the practical with the theological.
Would Julian say, if she got her car stuck in the snow,
“all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well?”

I bet she sometimes just muttered “oh well.”
I bet she had her doubts a mothering God controlled
what’s waiting on the other side of turmoil,

the gruesome news, the shit at work, the hell
through which we make each other go and go and go.
If all will be well and every everything will be well,

the obvious question is when? Does anyone know?
Could one tiny seed of calm actually grow?
What’s waiting on the other side of turmoil?
When will all be well? Will every everything be well?

_____

It does seem to me the setting on turmoil is turned way up lately.  But this Thanksgiving I am trying to nurture little seeds of calm where I can.

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Vanessa Quivertail when she was a baby kitteh.

 

 

IF I DIE IN MY CLASSROOM—a teacher’s ballad

I hope that right before it happens
I do something heroic,
but knowing me and how I panic,
I more than probably won’t.

I hope I’m wearing something cute.
I wonder about my hair.
I hope I look good on the floor.
I hope I say more than “don’t shoot.”

I keep on saying hope.
I hope, I hope, I hope.
But hope? I actually don’t have much.
I think it’s mostly luck—

If I have to die in class, I hope
I’ve just said something noble
that really made them think.
I hope I’m really quotable.

What else? I didn’t stay up late
to finish grading papers.
I made love to my husband instead—
I barely let him out of bed.

When I dropped my son off at school,
“I love you,” “I love you too”
is what we said. It’s what we say
so many times every day.

I hope my death makes people work
to figure out how to stop
the massacres. But if Sandy Hook
didn’t, my death won’t help.

I keep on saying hope.
I hope, I hope, I hope.
But hope? I actually don’t have much.
I think it’s mostly luck—

the upset student isn’t mine,
the unhinged parent isn’t here,
the disgruntled coworker is fine
(since his new meds he’s better).

When I lock the door and pull it shut
I tell my students that’s it—
that’s all I can do to keep them safe.
I hope I remember to pray.

I keep on saying hope.
I hope, I hope, I hope.
But hope? I actually don’t have much.
I think it’s mostly luck—

I have this badass dream.
I make myself a deputy.
I buy a gun. I take a class.
I shoot at cans.

I buy a fetching little holster.
I wear it when I teach.
I see the bad guy reach.
I blow him away. I’m faster.

You don’t have to know me well
to know how unlikely that is.
Much more likely I’d shoot myself.
Accidentally shoot someone else.

If I have to die in class,
I hope it isn’t soon.
I hope it’s me having a heart attack.
I hope it’s not a gun.

______

Two Wisconsin legislators started the week off with a bang by introducing a bill that would repeal the ability of University of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Technical Colleges institutions to ban firearms on campus. They are Republican, obviously.

Other Republicans have supported them by saying a gun is a tool the same way a smartphone is a tool. Let’s talk about tools. (Cf my friend Chuck Rybak on tools.)

Three Democratic legislators have now proposed a bill that bans concealed carry on campuses.

I think it’s a cowboy fantasy that more guns make good people safer, but I get the fantasy. I find it really appealing. Two of my favorite shows ever have Timothy Olyphant shooting all kinds of bad guys. If I could teach next door to Seth Bullock? Or Raylan Givens? Hell yeah, let’s arm the teachers and the students.

This photo is by Prashant Gupta. It appeared in this story: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv-movies/timothy-olyphant-justified-time-article-1.1728226

This photo is by Prashant Gupta. (Click for story it appeared in.)

But you know what? None of my colleagues inspire me in that particular way. And my students? Well, actually–some of them are pretty bad-ass. If I knew for sure they’d be on my side….

Since I’m wondering who’ll protect me, should I arm myself? I looked up the requirements for concealed carry in Wisconsin. I’d need to take a firearms safety class. I’ve been thinking about it, actually–not because I want to own a handgun, but because I want to shoot one. I have a novel that has guns in it, so I’m curious.

But that’s research. In real life, I’m a dorky, middle-aged woman with poor hand-eye coordination. No one who knows me would feel safer if I were armed.

Oh–and then there’s the question of evidence. My friend Ryan Martin has a great blog, and he points out some facts

  • more guns = more gun violence
  • more guns = more suicides

One of the pages he cites is fascinating to me. It has a long section on why the estimates of successful self-defense with guns are probably way over-reported, but also this:

“The study found that in incidents where a victim used a gun in self-defense, the likelihood of suffering an injury was 10.9 percent. Had the victim taken no action at all, the risk of injury was virtually identical: 11 percent.”

And this:
“What’s more, the study found that while the likelihood of injury after brandishing a firearm was reduced to 4.1 percent, the injury rate after those defensive gun uses was similar to using any other weapon (5.3 percent), and was still greater than if the person had run away or hid (2.4 percent) or called the police (2.2 percent).”

(I plan to look up that study to read it for myself–haven’t taken the time yet, but I will.)

So if I’m paying attention to that, I get a very strong urge to start practicing using my rolling backpack as a weapon (I did mention I’m a dorky middle-aged woman).  So even though the UWPD and the FBI recommend running or hiding and only fighting as a last resort, hm….

(I need to keep working to get in shape so I can actually run, btw.)

Let me be clear about one thing–I think it’s morally repugnant to blame victims of violence for not fighting back. (I’m not even going to link to people who say things like that. Shame on them.)

In any case–don’t ask me about guns on campus.  Ask law enforcement officials. UW Police are against it. And if police officers are too liberal for you, listen to this guy, quoted in an article from Wisconsin Public Radio:

“…Rick Esenberg, president of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, said he didn’t see evidence of greater danger. ‘(Science) is really unanimous in showing that concealed carry doesn’t lead to any increase in gun crime,’ he said. ‘The debate is really over whether it reduces gun crime.'”

(Note:  I do want to research what he says about science & concealed carry.)

EVEN HE THINKS UW OFFICIALS SHOULD MAKE THE DECISION,

NOT LEGISLATORS:

“[Esenberg] also suggested that campus authorities, as opposed to the Legislature, might be better positioned to decide on concealed carry policies for universities. ‘I don’t think you have to pass a bill about everything,’ he said.”

“I don’t think you have to pass a bill about everything,” he said. That cracked me up.  An actual libertarian kind of scolding repubs for over-legislating.

None of this is funny. Too many people have died. Too many children have died. But this guy is funny, and I turn to humor, because nothing else apparently works. And it’s not so much that humor works, but that it makes me feel better. I think nothing works, thus the general lack of hope.

We can’t work together to figure it out. People I love and/or respect  (sometimes both! really!) disagree with me in part or in whole about what ought to be done.

What I’m sure we’ll keep doing is disagreeing. What I wonder if we’ll ever do is work together to figure it out.

In the meantime, I’ll wake myself up, like I did this morning, with a poem forming in my head about “if I die in my classroom.”