ten minutes

One of the differences between the UC in the next town with which I am most familiar and the CSU where I am now working is that a 4-unit 1-quarter class at the UC was 3 contact hours whereas at the CSU it is 4 contact hours. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around a new time frame: 110 minutes for a Tu/Th class instead of 80. It’s a long class. My first college teaching were 4 and 1/2 hour accelerated classes, but aside from that, I’ve mostly manage MWF classes. I most decidedly did NOT have an “in” with the scheduler at the UC, and while they claimed to try to make it even with alternating 2-day and 3-day classes, I had many many more 3-day 50 minute classes, but that’s a different story (but I’m not bitter or anything).

I was on the third session of the classes when I gently (I hope) reminded my students that they needed to be on time and not be checking their electronic devices on class time. One of the students stayed to speak with me. I moved us to the hallway so the next class could come in. He said, very gently and respectfully, “Professor, 2 hour classes are really only supposed to be 100 minutes long. Professors do different things. You can have a break in the middle or you can end class early and let them get to their next class and then you have time to answer questions and so on at the end of class. Or you could start late. Most professors end class early.”

I was completely taken aback. It NEVER occurred to me that on a regular Tuesday/Thursday class I would be expected to not have the full contact/instructional hours listed on the schedule. In a 3-hour class or a 4-hour class one expects a break (it makes up for the 10 minutes less each day of a 50 or 80 minute class and it’s just necessary), but I never even thought about it in a regular weekday class.

So I asked my friend who referred me for the job, and she said that, indeed, there are only 100 instructional minutes in a Tu/Th 110 minute class. She said that most teachers simply end early.

I actually think this makes a lot of sense: 110 minutes is too long not to have a break, and it makes for a whole lot of contact hours. I just wish I’d been told about it ahead of time. I’ve been thinking about that. The coordinator for these classes is a graduate of the University. She has probably had this system her entire college life. Just as it never occurred to me that there would be a discrepancy between schedule and instructional minutes, it probably never occurred to her there wouldn’t be. We know what we have experienced.

I’m also intrigued that it took 3 days for any of my students to say anything. Are they that respectful? Were they giving me a break because I’m new? Do most of them not get why classes end early, they just go with the flow? I was kind of irritated the first couple days that they seemed to be packing up early, but I think they think class ends at 20 ’til instead of 10 ’til. Yet none of them ever whined about staying the entire time or, for that matter, got up and walked out.

So my question is, what do I do? I believe in breaks. In those 4 and 1/2 hour classes I taught, many students would have preferred to skip the break and get out early. I think breaks are important. I think the second half of class is a lot more meaningful after a chance to stretch, use the restroom, check those electronic devices. But there are advantages to getting out early, talking to those who need some extra time, letting them have 20 minutes to make their way across campus. I can see where I’m leaning, but we’ll see how it goes.

Posted in Teaching | 3 Comments

the new job

I’m teaching two sections of Management 306: Advanced Expository Writing at the local state college this quarter. It’s an ideal schedule, basically 8-12 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It’s also kind of an ideal class (if it can’t be literature): upper division writing. Along with the freshman writing requirement, every student at the local state university has to take and pass an upper division writing class, ideally geared toward their discipline. I’m teaching the business students. The thing I realized somewhere along the way is that everything they will be doing, I have done in my church job. For them, I call it a non-profit organization, but I write proposals and send emails and answer criticism and write reports and run meetings and so on and so forth. It’s just not that different.

One day in and I really like these kids. They are eager to learn and know being there is a privilege. These are not young adults who feel entitled; they are young adults who know this is their opportunity to do and be something more than what they have seen. They want to learn. It’s going to make it a fun class to teach but a rough class to grade.

I went to a department meeting on Friday. I haven’t gone to a department meeting since I taught high school. TAs and Lecturers don’t go to department meetings; we had one meeting a year they tried to get everyone to, but even those I kind of sloughed off. It’s also the first time in my life I have been part of any department other than English. It’s a little bit of a different world. Here I was surrounded by people who teach business. It’s hard to articulate the difference, but I felt it.

Derek the Ghost, author of the Scary School books, with my 2 and an extra at the book fair.

Derek the Ghost, author of the Scary School books, with my 2 and an extra at the book fair.

So. I have a class to prepare for and to grade for; I have a newsletter to work on; we have soccer and homework and projects and book fairs and other activities. And it turns out there are still dishes and meals and laundry that need to be done (though evidently it is possible to wear soccer uniforms two weeks in a row without washing). Oh, and I have a class I’m taking that is being sorely neglected and a grant I’m part of that is lovely and also takes time.

So. Busy. Good busy, but also a little overwhelming, Hopefully I will hold my Mondays and Fridays open to catch up on all the things that happen in between. Hopefully.

Posted in About Me, Teaching | 1 Comment

catching up

We wrote a grant back in May, 3 pastors in the presbytery including my colleague + me, that would let us meet together and break bread together and read books together and go on adventures together. They gave us the grant(!?!), and this weekend we had our kick-off retreat. We spent 48 hours at a retreat center in the LA area connecting, talking about plans, setting dates for the first year. We prayed together, attempted Tai Chi together, ate together, stayed up late drinking scotch and talking about the church together, set dates and talked about what we hoped to do together. It was brilliant. It reminded me of the best times in college and graduate school. It was heady, and it was also spirit-filled. It also turned out, perhaps because it was adjacent to labor day weekend, we pretty much had the retreat center to ourselves. One group met during the day on Tuesday, but we were the only ones spending the night. There was no bustling. We just existed together. Okay, the meals felt a little funny as the four of us sat in a cavernous dining room eating the bountiful spread. I will say this for the conference center, they are using minimal water right now–we are in a drought–to the point that a lake has been drained and most–not all–water features are turned off, and they had abundant food for us, but not unreasonably so. They are careful and reasonable.


I am fascinated with this welcome sign. The English and Spanish are different. “Open Wide the Doors” in English, but “Open the door of your heart” in Spanish. Is it just colloquialisms, phrases that we know better, or is there a difference between the two?

In the meanwhile, I have an interview tomorrow to teach writing to management students at the local state college. The boy child is in 1st grade. If I’m going to use that Ph.D., this is probably the time to get that going.

And the kids have their big worship service this week. We had enough kids on Labor Day weekend, we could have had one last rehearsal, but it wasn’t planned–they stayed in church because it was a communion Sunday–and I couldn’t quite bring myself to throw everything off with just a nod during the Time with Children.

Speaking of which, we had church in our chapel and then had far more people than we anticipated for a holiday weekend. On the one hand it was crowded and chaotic–communion by intinction with only one side aisle and half again the >100 people we anticipated–and on the other hand people were energized as they were elbow to elbow with people they didn’t know well. I was expecting a lot of, “what were you thinking???” and instead the comments have been entirely positive about the whole thing. The singing was so great with people sitting next to one another (and I was in the midst of choir members which made me happy). Amazing! Yet in the sanctuary people won’t respect the ropes the worship committee has put up to move them closer together. ::sigh::

Soccer has started this week. Both kids have moved up a level. The girl now has 2 practices a week. The boy looks so little with mostly bigger kids (June 30 cut-ff; he’s April; it puts him in the lowest 8th this year. His buddy has an October birthday, so they’re not even in the same grouping this time around. With our 2-year groupings, they will be every other year.)

And so, there we have it, life, for this family, in this part of the world.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

friday five: hello/goodbye

janintx offers her farewell Friday Five. I glanced at it this morning, and though I have about 12 other things I could be doing, it has been in my head all day, so I’m going to see if I can do it before the kids get dropped off, and still put together a Target shoe rack.

Jan says:

This is the last Friday Five that I will host after some years of presenting the third Friday Five of each month. I was honored to be asked and am grateful for the times of inspiration and laughter from you RevGals who played!

Our lives entail many beginnings and endings of periods or chapters. We can look back and see where we said “Hello” and “Goodbye.” Today please look at those times in your life. Be original or play along with these five suggestions:

I am saying “Hello” and/or “Goodbye” to:

IMG_1603 IMG_1604book: Margaret Maron says her newest Deborah Knott book is the final one. So hello and goodbye to Deborah Knott. It’s been fun. And it was always Dwight. (I may wait awhile to read it, though. Spin out the joy.) Here is what Margaret says about this: http://www.meanderingsandmuses.com/2015/08/when-clock-strikes-midnight-by-margaret.html
(I started reading Maron books long before ebooks were my go-to. I have some of these in paperback and some ebooks. Someday I may finish one or the other collection, or just leave it in mixed formats!)

Also this week, a new Louise Penny book comes out. Hello Inspector Gamache!

habit or practice: I’m contemplating going back to morning journalling as a way to be intentional about the day.

idea: There is a discussion going on at the RevGal Facebook page about throwing out standing committees in a church and creating “Seasonal Teams” that would have intention, purpose, and End Dates! We have wondered aloud about something like this before and people dig in their heels (but our committee needs to continue as it is), but I wonder if there would be any traction to begin this discussion again.

NFF1526060Sfood: Alas, I believe it’s time to say goodbye to summer snacking. I did get some frozen Greek Yogurt dessert bars (think ice cream bar) that were a pretty big hit. The girl child is all about Salted Caramel and the boy likes anything lemon or lime (so he gets the fruit juice popsicles. He does not like ice cream.)

person: Between her vacation and mine, my colleague and I have not been in the office together for 5 weeks, and before that I was on limited summer vacation schedule. I’m looking forward to saying Hello this week. We do a lot of back-and-forth bouncing ideas off of each other in the office, and whatever I do is always better for having her input, so I’ve missed that and everything else. “Got a minute?”

I hope you will play today. If you do, please leave a link to your blog posting in the comments.

Thanks for a fun farewell friday five, Jan. I hope we’ll still “see” you around!

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” ~Seneca

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

remember your baptism in school, at soccer, on the playground

20140907_103544 copy

We are preparing the children to lead worship the Sunday after Labor Day, what might be considered Kick-off or Rally Sunday. Last year we themed the service around communion. This year we are doing Baptism. It’s a good way to teach our children about the sacraments–one of our mandates–as well as have a strong theme for the service. Last year it was a communion Sunday. We don’t have anyone to baptize that day, so we will include a remembrance of baptism liturgy.

I have a musically talented high school sophomore I recruited to help this year, but he was at choir camp this first week, so I planned to introduce scripture this week, and start working on the musical bits when he will be here.

The scriptures we are using are the 4 water stories that we Presbyterians always reference at baptisms: Creation, The Flood, The Crossing of the Red Sea, and Jesus’ Baptism. We had 12 kids from age 3 to age 11. I put them in groups of 3 with a big, middle, and little kid in each group, and gave them each a story to figure out how to act out for the rest of the group. Though the 3 littlest ones in the end didn’t want to participate in the actual presentation, they helped prepare and practice, and they were a part of the whole. It was great fun!

Our two 11 year-olds are entering 6th grade and thus middle school and youth group in our systems, but we let them have an overlap year in the children’s program if they so choose. They are both kids who work really well with the younger kids and have leadership gifts. My hope is to work with them on writing a litany and having them bless the younger kids during the service. We will remember our baptism as we go out into schools and sports and playdates and music lessons and so on and so forth. The scriptures and songs and liturgy will bring together, I hope, both the idea of baptism and carrying God’s seal into our lives: When we remember our baptism, we know we are sealed by God, God’s own forever, and God is with us and wants to be our friend.

The tune to “Morning Has Broken” (BUNESSAN) has several different sets of lyrics (“Morning Has Broken,” “Baptized in Water,” and, I discovered in my copy of the new hymnal a version of St. Patrick’s breastplate to the same tune, “Christ Be Beside Me” (it’s also in the Sing the Faith hymnal (2166) we have, but I like the version better in the Glory to God (702). We will use that as a melody through-line for the scripture readings and litany.

I don’t have everything in place, but the service will look something like this:

Procession to the Font
Opening Scripture: Great Commission “Therefore go…baptize…and lo I will be with you always…” (Matthew 28:19-20) said in unison.
Gathering Song (“Come All You People” John Bell SF 2274)
Welcome and Introductions to the service
(Maybe include the Apostles Creed because we do that on Baptism Days)
4 Scriptures
Creation (Genesis 1: 1-2)
“Morning Has Broken” v. 1
Flood (some part of Genesis 6:8-18; 7:15-17; 8:1-3a)
Parting of the Waters (some part of Exodus 14:10, 13-16, 21-22)
Jesus’ Baptism (Matthew 3:13-17)
“Baptized in Water” v. 3
Remembering our Baptism
Litany (remember your baptism when…)
“Christ Be Beside Me” v. 1,2
Give Bibles to 3rd graders (There are 4 of them. Biggest group at a grade level we’ve had for awhile. Including Wordgirl.)
Sing “Our God is a God who Makes Friends” (John Bell. I am slowly working through all the songs on the John Bell/Alison Adams Album: Sing with the World.)

Then I think I’m going to let the kids go back to their seats while we finish with offering and prayers, but I’m not sure. We could also have them finish out the service.

Just a contextual note: We have a couple kids who have, very intentionally on the parents’ part, not been baptized, so I am taking pains to talk about both infant baptism and believer’s baptism and how they are equally good and that we know we are God’s children no matter when we get baptized.

Posted in Church | 2 Comments

monday morning

A week camping with family and a 50th birthday for CG and a first trip for the kids to the SixFlags amusement park.

malibu creek

A week on a paddleboat with my folks and the in-laws and the kids.


A day at the City Museum in St. Louis.


A week visiting family and friends in Indiana and Tennessee (and skyping with the one in the UK).


A reptile show and a big, long-promised, long-awaited purchase. Her name is Boing.


Posted in About Me, The Kids | Leave a comment

dog days of summer (or not)

The way this year worked out, we had a slow and mellow beginning to our summer with lots of Active Wii games and Pokemon matches and afternoons at the water park.

2015_0717_14065100Last week Wordgirl did drama camp, so we were suddenly having to set alarms and make lunches and negotiate carpools. She seemed to enjoy it. She was Olaf Sr. in an all-60-participants-get-a-part version of something akin to Frozen. She was absolutely darling, of course.

On Saturday I picked my cousins and family up from the airport. We got to enjoy some cousin time before the masses gathered Saturday afternoon to spread Grandma’s ashes in a rose garden on the first rainy day we’d had in months and months. I suppose I am grateful for the participatory and physical nature of taking ashes in our hands and placing them as we wish, but I missed the sacredness of a liturgy. Then we all trooped together to the favorite spaghetti place and had a loud dinner gathering. So loud.

Sunday, I stepped out of family time for a big church day. We hosted the congregations first ordination service in several decades. We held a lovely contemplative prayer service in the chapel in the morning for those who needed 10:30 a.m. church (which I got to plan) that made me wish we could do that more often. We said 25 would show up. That was just about on the mark. At 4:00 was the ordination, and much of the congregation came as well as family and a few people from the Presbytery. Those who participated in the service were… wait for it… a balance of Teaching Elders and Ruling Elders, women and men. There was one hiccup, but we got it covered, and it was really a good service. The sermon was short and sweet. The charge to the candidate was personal and intentional and emotional. The charge to the congregation was specific and good-humored and thoughtful.

The family left Sunday afternoon for the big camping reunion. I will join them shortly.

The girl child earned an amusement park ticket this year that expires soon, and Computerguy has a birthday, so we are going to try to head out during one day of camping to the amusement park.

On Saturday we fly to the midwest to cruise down the Mississippi on a steam boat (St. Paul to St. Louis) to celebrate CG and his dad who both have milestone birthdays. This is his mother’s big dream.

When the cruise ends, CG will fly home and the kids and I will see road trip to see a cousin in Indiana and a friend in Tennessee.

Then we get back on Saturday and school starts on Tuesday and in between there is a reptile show that we have promised Wordgirl we will attend and probably get her her long-awaited gecko.

So… Let it begin…

Posted in About Me, Family | 2 Comments