Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Wisdom of Mr. Rogers

My middle school chorus students looked at me quizzically when I mentioned Mr. Rogers today. We really need some more Fred Rogers in this world right now. Everybody is special in their own special way! I've been spending some time on the world-wide-web listening to and watching a little Rogers Wisdom. Here's a great song to share:

Enjoy! Lots of love. L-O-V-E.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ready... set...

Hello, All! I'm about ready to turn in at 9:00 so I can wake up at an ungodly hour to make the trek over to Marin. I start my first day with my choir at 8:00 am and as many of you know, that's not easy for me. It's not any easier for middle school kiddos, so we'll have a lot in common already. Chris and I did a lot of heavy lifting today at the elementary school where I have a classroom. We moved five heavy cabinets full of instruments from a multipurpose room to the classroom. We also moved a piano, keyboard, and other miscellaneous heavy things. I'm going to be one muscular music teacher! The portable is looking much more like a classroom rather than a scary, empty space. I'll post pictures soon.

Because I just got the okay to move in late last week, the music coordinator and I made the decision to cancel kindergarten classes for tomorrow so I can finish moving in. So, I just have my choir in the morning and move-in the rest of the day. Besides moving in, I think I'll take some time to visit with kids on the playground and at lunch. I'm really excited to get to know them.

I've been having flashbacks to my elementary days when I was waiting anxiously to find out my teacher for the year. The kids were running around the school on Friday with their parents, rushing the windows when the classroom assignments were posted. Kids were either elated or devastated, comparing lists to see which of their friends they were with and which ones they would lose forever to the "other side." It's a mini soap opera of flying playground feelings. I had a few visitors in my empty classroom and met three lovely second grade girls and two kindergarten students, one of which ran right over to hold my hand. As anxious and exhausted as I am, this will be a fun year.

I set up a website for my middle school choir and completed their handbook for the year. I am meeting about thirty middle school kiddos tomorrow morning and am planning on teaching a Venda song, playing a little name game, and going over our handbook. Check out what they're up to here:

Thank you all for your love. I've been needing some extra, supportive vibes down here lately. Keep 'em coming for the first week of class!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

"You're One-Fourteenth Through with Torts"

[Prefatory Explanation: This past week has proven that teachers, especially first-year teachers, are paid only about 1/5000 of a fair salary, given the time and energy required. This means, mathematically, that teachers should receive about $200,000,000 each year. It also means that Meg is too tired to blog and has deputized Chris to describe our week. He has decided to take blogger's license and write in the third person, egotism be damned. ]

OUR WEEK . . .

Began on Monday. Chris went to Boalt at 8am, when the library opens, and stationed himself at one of the many beautiful tables in the reading room for the express purpose of looking studious and intimidating. He failed. He was too nervous to be studious, and too fearful to be intimidating. The nerves and fear came from what Chris now calls the Expectations of a Law Student as Informed by Pop Culture. They are as follows:

1. Law professors exist to badger, belittle, and ultimately brain the poor law student.
2. You can actually die of embarrassment.
3. Your fellow students are actually trained actors who have been fed the answers and have carefully memorized scripts so that their comments and questions sound casually brilliant.

As it turns out: His nerves and fears were for naught. The entire week, he found that the professors were too humane to embarrass or brain anyone. The most surprising answer Chris heard from professors, to a probing and brilliant question posed by a classmate (i.e, a hired actor), was: "I don't know. I'd have to look at some cases and get back to you."

And you can't actually die of embarrassment. You can mutter, stumble, misspeak, stutter, and mistake a thousand things, and sometimes you regret it, but your heart does not stop beating and your lungs still take air.

And the students are not actors. (Though, strictly speaking, some of them were professional actors before coming to Boalt. One was a professional ballet dancer; one was a concert pianist; one was a CIA officer.) And though some are indisputably brilliant at times, they struggle the same as everyone.

The Expectations of a Law Student as Informed by Pop Culture are completely false. By and large, Chris's week was great. He's making friends, he's keeping up, and, one way or another, he's learning the law. (Mostly the law of finders; if you dig up a pre-historic ship on someone else's property while trespassing, let him know.)


The only thing about Chris's first week that might be of particular interest to people who have never gone to law school and who know about it primarily through popular culture is:

What's It Like to Be Called On?

For the record, Chris volunteered to speak and was called on in all his classes. But it happened first in Civil Procedure on Tuesday, and, for this kind of thing, the first can speak for all. There, the professor (a tall, erudite old man named Vetter) asked how a particular judge managed to interpret a statute. Chris raised his hand, half to stretch, half just to see how it felt, and shuddered to see the professor's head suddenly turn like that of a famished eagle toward a mouse. The professor called on him, and Chris entirely lost consciousness of himself. All he heard was this voice explaining slowly and carefully that the judge was relying on both a plain-meaning interpretation of the statute's language and a holding written by the Appeals Court in the Circuit in which the case in question was brought. The voice stopped, and the professor moved on. It took a few moments for Chris to infer that the voice was his and that he was not actually floating above the room like a phantom completely detached from his body. He had spoken.

It's actually quite similar to the scene from Old School starring Will Ferrell:

Which is all to say: It's not a big deal. Half the time, the answer is easy. Half the time, you black out anyway. No one laughs. No one even cares. They're just glad one more question has been answered so that they're off the hook.

And so it went throughout the week.

He's excited for next week, during which he'll turn in his first written assignment and continue to attend happy hours and group activities to figure out what he should do with the 16 minutes of spare time he'll have each week.


By all vital signs, yes. Her week, even more than Chris's, was an exercise in holding onto solid ground while a tornado, roiling with cows and cars and houses, bowls over you.

It was unclear at times whether she would even have a classroom, whether the YES foundation could provide a computer, or whether the Jr. High choristers from last year could overcome their sour feelings and take a chance on a young gunner from ORRY-gone.

By Chris's estimate, she attended 8,000 meetings. Her email inbox contains about 65 messages, the subjects for which are "One More Thing . . ." Her day consists of meeting 200 very important people at one school and going to the next school to meet 200 more.

But to no one's surprise, she has been hugely successful this week. Her Jr. High Choir started with just 15 students. By week's end, she had 31. You can imagine that the District Powers That Be are patting themselves on the back and thinking, "I knew that this girl is going to change things."

She's also completed a choir handbook, started setting up classrooms, and, along with her music department colleagues, worked on curriculum for the year. At this pace, by next week, she'll be superintendent of the district.

Both Meg and Chris are more tired than they've ever been. While they hope that things will calm down soon, they are excited by these new challenges and look forward to building some serious character.

Until then, they encourage you to start a petition to have teachers paid $200,000,000 per year.

MP: Hey, All! It's me! I'm alive! Barely! This is what I have to contribute at this point...

Lots of love to you all.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

It's a beautiful day!

MP: What a difference it makes to have my girlfriends around. I had a fabulous day today! I started off with a trip over to Marin to introduce myself to the office staff at three of my schools. I was able to get keys and see my rooms (spaces, really) and equipment at the three schools. The choir room at the middle school is much better than I had been told. There are folder racks and new risers. There's even an empty teacher's desk I'm thinking of swiping for myself... no office?! It's mine, now! I'll be there to prep each morning, so it might be a nice place to be quiet and get ready. I have six keys so far for three schools. We'll see how many I get for the last one! I'm planning on going back tomorrow for that.

The big highlight of my day was a visit from Sophie and Lisa! They came all the way from South Bay for lunch and a walk in Tilden Park. It was so wonderful to see my dear friends. I have missed them both so much. Lisa is moving here with her fiancee, Patrick, later this month. We haven't lived in the same state for a few years now (since we were in Divisi together at UO) and I'm so looking forward to having her here. She's in a master's program in music education, so we are already planning big for our joint future education projects! Soph is living in Portland and working on her master's in social work. She's already doing some amazing things and I'm so proud of her. I feel so blessed to have these women in my life!

Chris had his first day of orientation and I'll let him write about that... we're both getting started down here and it's all very exciting/nerve-wracking/wonderful! Love to all. Until next post!
CP: Boalt held its first day of Orientation. Orientation, you might be interested, comes from the Latin, "orientior," which means "to confuse and slightly frighten nervous naifs on the first day of a major endeavor while charging them $700 for textbooks with all the narrative force of an old phonebook."

In the beginning, it lived up to its etymological roots. We were herded into a courtyard and fed bagels, bananas, and coffee, all on the pretense of relaxing us with some forced socialization. But it's impossible to relax when you're fairly certain that you just overheard the guy sitting across from you say that he's on leave from his Biology PhD program at Harvard to pursue this little frivolous thing called a JD. That didn't actually happen. But it very well could have if I were sitting at another table. My table, in fact, had normal people (by which I mean people from Stanford) with good senses of humor and a taste for onion bagels. We got along very well.

I found out my class schedule:

10-11:10am: Torts
11:20-12:30: Civ Pro
2:00-3:20: Property

I also have a pass/fail class called Legal Writing and Research. It's my only class on Fridays.

The first official function was the Welcome Session, which was a long program of fawning over us. "Look at you, you little Boalties! You're so great! We love you! Good luck with this vast and mysterious ocean called the law! You should do just fine!" The closing speaker was a guy named Bob Berring, famous to law librarians for his sense of humor. He gave a rousing speech. The most important piece of advice came from a story about a young man with a marital problem who came to Bob with a rather risque plea for advice. Essentially the poor guy said, I'm studying so much that my wife's getting a little frustrated with the, ahem, neglect. What should I do? Bob's advice: Don't forget your priorities. The law can wait. That was his general theme. Don't forget who you are.

We proceeded then to a fine catered lunch, which gave me the opportunity to smear tuna salad all over my face. In my defense, the tuna went well with the half-melted chocolate-chip cookie, so I feel it was an overall victory. Again, everyone I met at lunch (by which I mean a whole bunch of people from Stanford) was very kind.

During the afternoon we met with our modules. A module (or Mod) is a group of about 30 students with whom you'll take your core classes, two of which will be with another mod (making a class of about 90 students) and one of which with just your mod. I'm in Mod 5, and we'll be taking Property with each other. My first impression is that everyone is friendly and funny, the only two things I require in a human. I look forward to getting to know them better.

The rest of the day I spent in doing administrative things (getting my ID card, signing up for a library account, wiping off the chocolate-chip cookie from my face).

Tonight I did my first assignment. It was a case involving the false imprisonment of a guy who happened to oppose, of all noble and justified things that were totally worth doing, World War I. This opposition caused some guys in his town to take the liberty of kidnapping him and dumping him across state lines, after a proper beating at the border. The issue is: If the guy was so scared to death that in the beginning he consented to get into a car with the leaders of a crazed and armed mob, is it really false imprisonment? The answer is: Ask the guy from Stanford.

Overall, a fine day. Boalt seems like a great place. The cookies are good.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A new twist...

We're trying something different. Family, please disregard past rambling posts on design, cooking, and cute baby animals. This blog will now hopefully serve to update y'all on our California adventures. So to start, we're slowly moving into our North Berkeley place and it's beginning to look a little more like "home" and less like a bunch of boxes containing all of our stuff. Our cats are happy to be roaming around the house instead of being cooped in a hot, large, plastic box while vibrating down the freeway for 14 hours. Tonight they were preoccupied with a moth outside the office window. We have lovely neighbors, both of the human and animal variety. I met one of the deer when I was going out to do the laundry.

We just returned from a short overnight trip to the Russian River Valley where we took our honeymoon. It's just as beautiful as we remembered. We only went to two wineries, Ridge and Porter Creek, and they both were amazing. Porter Creek is a certified organic vineyard and was one of our favorites from our honeymoon. We bought a great bottle of zinfandel to celebrate and greeted the gigantic vineyard dog (see picture). We had a nice dinner at Flavor in Santa Rosa and went off to the Sonoma Valley Hilton. All of this beauty is... get this... an hour away. We can't believe it. I went a little crazy with the artsy-fartsy photos of grapes, but I was pretty blown away.

I have a meeting with the HR person at my school district tomorrow and I'm really excited to get the scoop. Chris is eagerly awaiting orientation towards the end of the week. And away we go! Much love to all.